Review: Al Volo, Rufforth Airfield East, Wetherby Road

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If you were a fan of Sardinian restaurant Sapori in York’s Shambles, set your compass to the west.

Because the team behind Sapori have flown to a new base – Al Volo – in a converted hangar at Rufforth Airfield just outside York.

Chef Francesco Pischedda leads the kitchen while his partner Denise Carta runs the room with her sister Naomi and colleague Alex.

Naomi’s boyfriend is in charge of the bar. It’s a family affair which translates into a very warm welcome with lots of smiles.

Our “ticket” took the form of an invitation from Francesco to try the evening menu.

It’s a short journey to reach the new base – just a 15 minute drive from York city center on a Saturday evening. A warning, our Sat Nav directed us off the road a left turn too soon. The entrance you want is the main entrance to Rufforth Tennis Club; a rough road takes you past the tennis courts and onto the shed.

It was pitch dark and it was hard to see where we were going. But take my word for it, if you continue you’ll come across an industrial/farm building with parking outside.

Inside, you will still wonder: am I really in the right place? But be patient – take the stairs (there’s also an elevator) and a door opens into a cozy and elegant Italian restaurant; filled with elegant brown leather armchairs and banquettes and full of the aromas of the Mediterranean.

We tried the Sardinian house white wine (very nice) looking at the menu. I immediately liked that the menu was spread over just two pages. You can easily be overwhelmed by too many choices. It was just perfect: ten starters ranging from focaccia and garlic bread to Caprese salad and slow-cooked octopus; a choice of homemade ravioli and pasta, three risottos, as well as a fish of the day, prawns, steak, pork and chicken.

Despite the apparent brevity, we still took a moment to debate which dishes to choose. In the end, we chose the Parmigiana Scomposta Di Melanzane (£9.95), aubergine gratin, and the meatball dish, Polpette Fritte, (£8.95) – both on Denise’s recommendation.

York Press: Baked Eggplant at Al VoloEggplant gratin in Al Volo

We were not disappointed. The eggplant dish came on a ribbon of thin, crisp Sardinian biscuit, and was a gorgeous gooey mix of layers of vegetables with melted mozzarella, parmesan and sweet tomato sauce. The meatballs were also a winner: delicately finished rounds of pork and meat in the pan to give them a light but crispy edge. They came with a creamy and tangy Hollandaise and parsley sauce which was a surprising addition, but worked beautifully.

For our main courses, we were won over by the sound of the “artisanal stuffed ravioli” on the menu. We chose two of the ‘signature dishes’; my partner chose the Tortelloni Due Colori (£18.95), colored with purple beetroot and green spinach and filled with zucchini and prawns, while I opted for the more expensive but intriguing Sardinian black ravioli (21 £.95), where the pasta is blackened by charcoal and stuffed with scallops, cod and chives.

Watch – our video tour inside AL Volo in Ruforth

Food has to look good to tempt us, and these dishes passed that first hurdle with ease. The tortelloni looked amazing on the plate: six pieces of pasta, raspberry red on one side, green on the other, smothered in creamy-yellow Hollandaise sauce with a scattering of shelled and shellless shrimp. It was as good as it looked; the perfectly cooked pasta so it easily gives way to the creamy mixture inside. The prawns added an extra dimension of flavor and texture.

York Press: A winner - tortelloni at Al VoloA winner – tortelloni in Al Volo

The black ravioli looked even more inviting: six snake-shaped pasta shells layered over a trio of red, white and green sauces to replicate the flag of Italy. Unfortunately the pasta was thick and too “al dente” for my taste and the main flavor of the filling was potato.

We passed this feedback on to staff who said they would take care of quality with their local suppliers. I had been the third customer that evening to comment on the disappointing quality of the black ravioli.

At the same time, we tasted a salad of beets, tomatoes and red onions – a faultless one.

Desserts came down to a fabulous homemade tiramisu (£7.95) flavored with Bailey’s and a brioche bun topped with Italian gelato (£5.95). The ice cream, or gelato, is made by Elisa Peterle, who now runs Paradiso Dolce Salato, the new Sardinian cafe in Walmgate, York. Its pistachio ice cream is worth the trip to Rufforth – soft and creamy and full of the real flavor of the nut. Unbelievable.

We finished with coffee and a little taste of limencello cream from Al Volo (I was driving). It’s something, and if you like Bailey’s, I recommend you try it. The acidity of the limoncello is softened by the addition of the cream and I would have loved to taste a full measure of it.

The restaurant was almost full when we visited and given that it just opened three months ago, it already attracts regular customers from the surrounding villages.

It’s also open for breakfast and lunch – and a daytime visit would allow you to gaze at the airfield and surrounding countryside. Don’t forget to see where you are going on the road to the restaurant.

It is open from Tuesday to Sunday and several musical evenings are planned in the coming weeks.

For more information visit: www.alvoloruforth.co.uk or phone 0749 656 1402.

Al Volo

Rufforth East Aerodrome,

Wetherby Road,

Rufforth, YO23 3QA

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