Santore is an excellent new Italian eatery hidden near the tennis courts, behind Lifestyles. It has a beautiful, green location, really excellent pizza, fantastic ingredients and intelligent staff. It's currently a bit hard to find, but that's part of the charm. We highly recommend
Sri Lanka has a long relationship with Italy and there are a fair amount of Italian restaurants here. Bayleaf
, Echo, La Trattoria
, Pasta Hut
The problem with Italian food is that it depends on excellent ingredients which are either unavailable or very expensive. They are, however, necessary. No amount of technique can make up for a lack of good cheese, meat, etc.
Santore stands out because they seem to import everything from cheese to salami to flour. Even the entire pizza oven has been imported, and it's manned by an Italian, overseen by the owner's Italian mother. It works.
We tried the Pizza Santore (mozzarella, salami olives; Rs. 1,650) and the Pizza Diavola (tomato sauce, mozzarella, salami; Rs. 1,450). Both were really good thin crust pizzas and they arrived fast - only going in the oven for about a minute. This is possible because they have such a good oven.
We're no experts, but this pizza oven is at least two times what we've seen anywhere else. You could fit three bodies in there. It heats up with firewood and cooks the pizzas beautifully. It's a food geeky subject, but we have a friend who spent ages trying to build a pizza oven here and it's very difficult, nearly impossible in fact, given local clay and materials.
At Santore they've imported the entire oven in parts and only used local cement to cover and finish it. It's really big and makes pizza perfectly. As far as ovens go, this it the best we've seen in Sri Lanka by far and it's manned by a real Italian, Domenico Capodiferro.
There's a lot behind these pizzas, and they're really worth a try. You can taste that everything is high quality, the cheese, the salami, the bread, the preparation. Really good.
The pasta we ordered, however, was not so good. The Spaghetti Carbonara (Rs. 900) was under-seasoned and generally just bland. It did have real bacon so we presume that it's redeemable. The one we tried just didn't taste of much.
We also tried some bruschetta bread with a bit of habanero chili sauce (not on menu, just to try the chili). The bread is baked there and it's excellent.
For dessert we tried the cheesecake (Rs. 650), which was also good.
Basically everything except the pasta was good to stellar, and the pasts is redeemable.
The restaurant has been open for less than two weeks and the owner is there talking to everybody. His mother is there also, keeping an eye on things. That's always a good sign, and Antonio is very nice and justifiably proud of his place.
The staff themselves are quite intelligent, aware of the menu, and actually quite confident. They seem thoughtful and well-trained. It's early days so we'll see how they sustain under pressure, but overall the ship seems pretty tight.
The location is right in the center of Colombo, but hidden. It's between the National Museum and the Green Path Roundabout, directly behind Lifestyles Gym. You walk in past the gym and it's at the end of that sidewalk, looking right onto the tennis courts. They have a nice interior where you can watch the pizzas being made, but the real draw is seating outdoors, next to the spiral staircase and on the lawn. During the day you can watch and hear people play, surrounded by green. It's a new spot, and a good one.
The thing that tricked us was that as you walk in you see a little kade called Santore, you have to walk past that to get to the full restaurant, which still has no proper sign.
This Italian restaurant imports the best ingredients (including an amazing pizza oven) and is manned by actual Italians. Top it off with a beautiful, verdant location and intelligent staff and you have a real treat hidden in Colombo 7.