With first class service and a menu that paid homage to Italian classics, it gave customers a celebration of the best of Italian flavours.
Aktar Islam was born in Birmingham, unlike the Italian owners of Fiume, a neighbourhood trattoria near the Wolverhampton and Shropshire border. Carla Scaringi and Stefano Scaringi were born in Italy and opened their restaurant in 2013. It’s proven successful and has a regular crowd for its modern interpretations of classic dishes inspired by their home regions of Sardinia and Basilicata.
The Italian duo are passionate about the food and drink that is hugely important to their culture and at Fiume they share a little of that.
Providing Italian cuisine with a southern Italian influence and a fresh twist is the order of the day.
The Scaringi’s restaurant is independent, family-run and offers casual dining in a relaxing, family-friendly atmosphere. During the good weather, guests can also dine al fresco whilst watching the passing canal boats glide past. In winter, they migrate indoors.
Their front of house team is impressive with general manager Adam Preece proving himself to be experienced, confident and assured when my partner and I visited for a Saturday lunch.
His manager, Gemma Walters, was equally impressive, if not more so. She greeted regulars by their first name, was hard-working and industrious and between them, they showed that the Scaringis have put their restaurant in safe hands.
Context is all important and visitors to Fiume ought not to expect the sort of culinary thrills on offer at Legna. In an industry that is horses for courses, Fiume caters to a demography that doesn’t have the big bucks on offer in neighbouring Brum and its cloth is cut to suit. So ingredients are decent, rather than the absolute best available. Cooking techniques are simple, rather than showier than a Hugh Jackman movie.
Prices are lower; people living in Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth don’t want to pay through the nose for relatively simple fare that they might otherwise cook at home. The menu, however, doesn’t pull any punches. It is detailed, lengthy and celebrates the best of Italian cuisine with no stone left unturned.
There is a wide selection of classic pasta dishes, ample variations of risotto, a number of fish mains, a lengthy meat section, a dozen sides and a lengthy pizza menu to boot.
There aren’t clothes rails full of homemade drying pasta, nor does the restaurant have the sweet aroma of sensational tomatoes, or other prime ingredients.
But it does offer a warm welcome and the staff are thoroughly engaged.
My partner and I started with antipasto per due, which featured a mix of sliced cured Italian meat, Grana Padano, Gnocco Fritto, mozzarella and sweet and spicy chicken in breadcrumbs.
I’m not sure how Italian fried chicken with a sweet chilli sauce is, truth be told, but it was a welcome, if not unexepected, indulgence. Tender on the inside, crispy on the outside and drenched in a reasonably fiery sauce, it whetted our appetite. It didn’t really go with the slices of Parma ham, nor the flakes of Grana Padano, but who cares. Viva Italiano.
Slices of mortadella were pleasant, as were cuts of salami, though a second ham was only one step removed from the wafer thin variety to be found in most supermarkets.
The olives were so-so, there are better quality varieties out there, while the gnocco fritto were a complete mystery – like little crisp, empty shell doughnuts that really needed a filling. A big ball of mozzarella and a few leaves of basil finished a mighty dish.
My partner chose a mixed risotto with tiger prawns, chorizo and n’duja sausage. It seemed the prawns were on holiday – she counted two tiger prawns in her dish, though there were numerous baby shrimps helping the dish to make weight.
The rice was a little overcooked; why don’t chefs stick to al dente and leave a little bite, rather than creating a savoury rice pudding?
It had the makings of a decent dish, but too much was lost in the execution.
My lasagne was better. The traditional sheets of egg pasta were interlayered with a soft, Bolognese ragu and topped with melted mozzarella and parmesan. Pleasant though the texture was, the ragu might have been better seasoned and more intensely flavoured, but the dish was pleasant and comforting.
The dessert menu read well with everything from semifreddo and crepes, tiramisu and crème brulee to profiteroles and cheesecake.
Having made our way through a colossal starter and decent main, however, we had no room. Fiume serves Wolverhampton-sized portions and guests don’t leave hungry.
It would be gilding the lily to describe Fiume in hyperbolic terms. There is no need to be too effusive. It doesn’t compete with the best of the best but it does provide affordable dining in relaxed and convivial surroundings with extremely good front of house. And let’s face it, when restaurants go out of business almost as quickly as pubs and when most people don’t get much choice beyond the pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap national chains, an independent restaurant that’s stayed the course for six years is a success story.
Fiume keeps locals in work, gives diners a taste of Italian cuisine and offers first rate hospitality at an affordable price.
For sure, there’s room for improvement – the same could be said about almost every restaurant – but it’s a welcome fixture on the region’s dining scene and long may its success continue.