ITRI, Edinburgh – not just another Italian restaurant

ITRI is an intimate yet modern local Milanese restaurant.

ITRI is an intimate yet modern local Milanese restaurant.

Since this post as written, ITRI has closed.

It was C’s birthday and in our household, when it’s your birthday, you decide what’s for dinner. The plans started with a pleasant but not overly ambitious dinner at home but changed, a couple of days before the day, to dinner out. Not at one of the expensive restaurants we haven’t tried, or the mid-price ones we really like, but a local and untried Italian restaurant, ITRI. ITRI’s not just Italian, it’s Milanese.

Before ITRI it was another Italian restaurant before. Walking in to main room I had a feeling of déjà vu that quickly dispelled into relief. The last time I was in this room it had faux stone covered in faded plastic bougainvillea all over the walls and a karaoke machine. The surroundings weren’t great and dinner can’t have been either since I remember what I wore but not what I ate.

The new interior is more urban – exposed brick walls, dark wooden floors – although a couple of faux stone arches remain. The room is in two sections, the main section where the entrance and the bar is, and the back room with a narrow section that would fit 10-12 people as well as a couple of other tables.

Baby octopus. Look at those lovely little tentacles!

Baby octopus. Look at those lovely little tentacles!

Even had the interior not looked much better than it used to, I would have remembered what I ate this time, not just what I wore. The food was lovely. I started with baby octopus in a rich tomato sauce, continued with a huge swordfish fillet in a lemon sauce with pine nuts and finished with amaretti ice cream with chocolate sauce. C went for a broccoli souffle with beetroot sauce and a pizza boscaiola.

The menu is not a typically Italian menu – probably because this is not a typical Italian restaurant. The menu focuses on seasonal items and doesn’t go for the obvious: there was no saltimbocca alla romana, no spaghetti carbonara. I like both these dishes but they are so ubiquitous it is nice not to see them on a menu.

Possible the largest swordfish fillet I've ever seen. Or eaten.

Possible the largest swordfish fillet I’ve ever seen. Or eaten.

My baby octopus was lovely. Cooked to perfection and swimming in a sea of tasty tomato. The fish course was very generous. I have seldom seen a swordfish fillet of that size. Again, it was cooked to perfection. Vegetables came on the side and were redundant but no doubt welcome to people with even larger appetites than mine.

I was full after my main course but it was a special dinner, so I soldiered on and managed dessert. (I’m very brave that way.) The amaretto ice cream was as creamy and almondy as I had hoped and had a pleasant crunchiness from the crushed biscuits. I was too chicken to try out their other amaretti dishes – there’s one on the starter menu that I’d love to hear about if anyone’s tried it.

A glass of grappa is a good close to a meal

A glass of grappa is a good close to a meal

To be honest, I’m not difficult to please: good atmosphere, nice food and good service and I’m a fan. The service at ITRI is friendly and informal at a perfect local restaurant level. I’d be happy to become known there. And chances are I will since we got free digestifs when they found out that it was C’s birthday. Not that I really needed a second grappa, but I really appreciated the gesture. It was a lovely way to end dinner and a sure way to impress.

The meal came to £89 and that included two glasses of prosecco, two amarettos, a bottle of rose, a grappa and two espressos as well as two three-course meals. It felt like a bargain.

ITRI do food tastings and city tours – check out their website for their events.

ITRI Restaurant
169-173 Gilmore PLace
Edinburgh, EH3 9PW
Tel: 0131 228 3115

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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