It might seem strange to have tried an Italian restaurant (pictured) in Sri Lanka, but our hostess had spoken of it so highly (and mentioned that it served the best gnocchi in the world) that we were persuaded away from our normal fare of curry for the evening.
We almost missed the entrance in the inky tropical night, so discreet is it (and one’s eyes on the local roads tend to be otherwise engaged, staring straight ahead towards the tuk tuks and motorbikes coming towards you), but once in through the gates we were greeted by a little haven of tranquillity, with only the sound of the sea and the smell of focaccia to distract us.
Owner Massimo has long been a resident of Sri Lanka; he previously ran the hugely successful Why House, rooms with a restaurant, just outside Galle, but seeking a less hectic lifestyle, he switched things round and opened a restaurant with rooms instead.
Aided by his partner Lasith, an Italian chef who makes the gnocchi and fettuccine by hand each day, and of course by his indomitable mama, Massimo’s restaurant is a joy, not only for the excellent food, but also for its impressive selection of wine – one of the best in Sri Lanka, according to my hostess who has conducted a thorough personal investigation.
We started with elegant melt-in-the-mouth plates of carpaccio Cipriani-style (Rs1,500, about £7.60) and a selection of Italian salamis accompanied by Parmesan (about £7.60). This was followed by huge, juicy grilled prawns for some of our party of six, deliciously fresh yellowfin tuna with a light caprese salad, fluffy rice and crunchy vegetables for others, and, of course, the famous gnocchi. Of the three varieties on offer, gnocchi with cheese sauce and white truffle extra virgin olive oil (about £8.40) was the one we went for and it was truly delicious – the creamy richness transporting us many miles away to La Bella Italia.
Chocolate mousse (about £3.80) and wild berries ice cream (about £3.30) were also on offer for those who wanted to finish their meal on a sweet note, but I chose instead to wander a few steps down to the sea, reputedly one of the best swimming beaches on this coast, for a fresh-air digestif. A sneak peak at the stylishly simple Basilico Bungalow and Rucola Suites on site were tempting indeed, and a mere stumble from the table for those who fully indulge in the gastronomic delights – but sadly, this time, my car full of friends meant my head was to lie on a pillow elsewhere.