There’s no doubting what’s on offer at Restaurant Il Tano, located in the heart of Santa Catalina in Palma. It’s written in big, bold letters for everyone to see as they walk in. Sapori del Sud Italia – the taste of Southern Italy. For owner, Alessandro Leo, authenticity is non-negotiable. He is meticulous in his selection of ingredients which he imports largely from his home region of Puglia.
This Italian restaurant was originally a traditional bakery. Alessandro led the refurbishment and chose to keep the forty-year-old oven. The cosy atmosphere is created by the combination of wooden panelled walls, exposed stone, old beams and burgundy and black colour scheme. Dried chillis hang from the ceiling, and a fresco pays homage to classic Italian art.
Alessandro is adamant that Il Tano is not like the dozens of other Italian restaurants in Palma. The menu offers ninety-eight varieties of pizza, all of which must meet his exacting standards. “I won’t make someone a barbecue pizza, because it goes against my principles,” he tells us, touching his heart as if the very thought might break it. He feels as strongly about Carbonara, which they prepare, not with cream and bacon, but with egg and pork cheek. With a genuine Italian foundation in place, he feels free to play with recipes.
From an extensive list of starters, we opt for their Burrata Ibérica, the so-called queen of Puglia Mozzarella, which Alessandro buys from a place just a few kilometres from where his father was born. It is presented on a slate slab, with dried tomatoes, boletus, grated parmesan, rocket and crisp Sardinian bread. Each forkful delivers a burst of intense flavour; each ingredient delicious on its own and even more combined.
Following a generous platter of typical Italian hams, cheeses and to-die-for Foccacia, we sample another Southern Italian speciality; a fried Calzone of Mozzarella and ham topped with fresh basil. Expecting to find it a little heavy, we are pleasantly surprised by its lightness and simplicity.
The lamb and fresh cheese ravioli in a Chianti sauce, topped with caramelised onions and cured sheep’s cheese, is mouth-watering. The flavours work in perfect harmony, and the rosemary seasoning adds a richness and depth.
With Alessandro’s enthusiastic encouragement, we complete our meal with a hearty dessert of sponge cake soaked in Baileys, filled with hazelnut ice cream and finished off with Nutella. Replete and relaxed, we take a moment more to savour the laidback atmosphere of this authentic Italian restaurant, as we contemplate taking a trip to the evidently, very tasty, South.