I’ve been feeling really deflated since returning from our week’s holiday in Rome over half term. The weather has been horrendous for a start. After seven days of glorious Italian sunshine it’s been non-stop rain and so cold I’ve even put the heating on. It certainly didn’t take us long to fall back into the routine of school, work, the kids’ activities, housework, and that general sense of rushing from one place to another and not having enough hours in the day. As I plough through the holiday washing between school drop offs, it’s like we’ve never been away!
I keep saying to Cardiff Daddy that I want to recapture some of that relaxing quality family time and slow things right back down to holiday pace.
In the absence of another holiday, we were really excited to be invited by dining chain Prezzo to celebrate the launch of their new La Famiglia sharing pasta bowls with a family dining experience at their Cardiff St Mary Street restaurant. A little taste of Italy in our hometown!
As a work-at-home mum, cooking generally falls to me, so it’s always a real treat when we get to eat out and I can sit back and relax while someone does it all for me.
Rather than each family member ordering their own individual meal, and then the kids being upset when their sibling’s meal looks better than theirs, Prezzo’s La Famiglia sharing bowls are huge portions of pasta that serve up to four. The bowls are placed in the middle of the table, with the whole act of serving and sharing becoming a central focus of the meal.
We went to Cardiff’s St Mary Street restaurant in the centre of town early evening last Thursday to put the new dining experience to the test. I’d taken the kids to see Dinosaur Babies, the new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff, after school. It was great to be able to head straight to the restaurant rather than driving home in rush hour traffic and having to cobble a meal together for three tired and hungry kids. And as Cardiff Daddy works in the city centre, it was really easy for him to walk over to meet us.
We got to the restaurant about 5.30pm and it was nicely busy but with plenty of empty tables too. My children were thrilled to be seated upstairs, next to a glass balcony wall from where we could see the chefs at work and the huge pizza oven. They were given children’s menus which double as colouring and activity sheets but they actually spent more time looking over the balcony watching the food being prepared. They were super excited to spot our huge bowl of pasta as soon as it was ready – and, luckily it arrived pretty quickly.
We’d opted for Spaghetti Bolognaise – it’s a huge favourite of all three of my children, not to mention Cardiff Daddy too. The other La Famiglia choices are Penne Arrabiata (crushed chillies, parsley and garlic in a pomodoro sauce), Spaghetti Carbonara (pancetta in a carbonara sauce with crispy prosciutto and parsley), and Penne Alla Rusticana (Seasoned chicken, pancetta, peppers and rosemary in a creamy pomodoro sauce), with the bowls priced at £18.90 and serving up to four.
We were treated to the La Famiglia Feast option, a limited edition family meal deal, which includes two large garlic breads, four soft drinks and dessert of four ice creams, as well as the pasta bowl, for a bargain £30.
Regular readers will probably be saying “But aren’t you vegetarian, Cardiff Mummy?” and yes, I am. The sharing bowls serve up to four, depending on appetite, so being a family of five, we knew we’d need to order one more meal in any case. Knowing how much the kids love spag bol, I was happy for them to choose their favourite. Isn’t that what being a mum is all about?!
What we weren’t expecting was for the bowl of pasta to be so big it would have easily fed five of us – we even had some left over, which the staff boxed up for us to take home and the kids took in their lunch boxes to school the following day. If we’d known just how much pasta was in those sharing bowls, we needn’t have worried about the extra meal and could have opted for the Penne Arrabiata for all of us to share (although I did worry whether that would have been too spicy for their delicate taste buds; a plain pomodoro sauce could be a nice additional choice ). It’s incredible value though, being able to feed a family of five in a restaurant for just £18!
In the spirit of a shared meal, we ordered olives, a salad, and a margherita pizza, meaning there was plenty of food to go round. While we were in Italy, we’d got into the habit of ordering a few dishes to share, rather than everyone ordering their own meal. This was partly because it made dining out cheaper, and partly because it meant less food waste, but also because we soon realised what a lovely bonding experience the continental custom of sharing food with each other is.
Cardiff Daddy served up the pasta for everyone, and it wasn’t long before he was topping everyone up with seconds after the first plates were demolished. It always amazes me how much my children can eat when they’re given a favourite dish.
Family mealtimes have always been important to us. Ever since we started baby led weaning with Little Miss E, our eldest child who is now 7½, we’ve sat down to eat as a family as often as we can. Mealtimes are a big part of our day. Admittedly, dining with three young children, whether at home or at a restaurant, is not always easy, and there are days when we are rushing about with work, school and activities that dinner is snatched on the go, but I think it’s important to make meals a real family occasion as often as we can. As the old saying goes, “The family that eats together, stays together.” With all our lives as busy as they are, it’s so important to make time to eat together. We have some of our best conversations when we’re all relaxed and enjoying each other’s company at the dinner table.
As we ate our meal, Little Man O, my five-year-old middle child, told us all about a game he and his friends had been playing at lunch times at school. Usually when I ask him about his day at school, he tells me he forgot so it was lovely to get an insight into his school life. Little Miss E, aged 7, started talking about the Book Lovers badge she’s currently working towards in Brownies. Toddler Boy I, now 3¼, tried to sing us all a song he’d learned at Cylch Meithrin (Welsh nursery).
Not having to worry about cooking and clearing away meant I was so much more focused on my children and husband. And, even better, there was no clearing away, no dishes to wash, no table to wipe down, no food on the floor to clean up. Just two happy adults and three happy children, bellies nicely full of Italian food. The weather outside might have been hammering down with rain, but the Prezzo La Famiglia experience definitely helped us recapture the Italian sunshine of our holiday right here in Cardiff. Prezzo La Famiglia, and our experiences in Italy, have reignited our efforts to make meal times a real family affair. We’re using the dining room more, rather than squashing around the tiny kitchen table, serving up from a big bowl on the table, and remembering to slow down and appreciate each other, as well as the food. Buona salute!
Have you been to Prezzo with your family? Have you tried the La Famiglia dishes? Do let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy
This post is an entry for the BritMums #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge, sponsored by Prezzo.
Thanks to Prezzo for inviting us along to review.