Since opening its doors in 2017 Castello Italia has delighted its customers with an array of Italian dishes with a modern Irish twist.
And whilst many businesses shut up shop during lockdown, instead Castello Italia went through an ambitious rebrand which saw the lower floor transformed into a modern Pizzeria.
At the helm of this transformation was General Manager David Long, who saw an opportunity to expand his product offering. “Before I joined the business I had been living in Carrick and always thought Castello should be offering takeaway as well.
“Pizza was always very popular in the restaurant and in the café downstairs, but we always thought there should be an option to take it home or make it at home, we just weren’t sure how it was going to happen, so being forced into lockdown sped up this process,” said David.
This wasn’t an easy feat however, “in the summer of 2020 we remodelled both kitchens and knocked down walls to get our pizza oven from our first floor into our ground floor kitchen.” David said.
However the rebrand has allowed the restaurant to widen its offering with the ground floor restaurant now serving pizza for takeaway, the middle floor serving fine cuisine and the top floor acting as a private function room.
“The downstairs is friendlier for kids because it’s more relaxed in its décor and service.” Whilst the middle restaurant focuses on a carefully curated menu of Italian inspired dishes.
David who comes from a fine dining background states, “We’ve almost hit the nail on the head offering premium quality but not leaving people hungry. Italian food is comfort. It’s full of flavour, filling and makes you happy.
The restaurant also has a commitment to keeping everything local where possible. “Provenance is really important. We are using mostly local ingredients yet ensuring an authentic Italian taste. We work closely with local suppliers to guarantee we keep Northern Ireland’s world class products on par with our Italian inspiration.
“Our most popular dishes are the braised beef gnocchi, it’s a winter dish but it’s popular all year round. It features melt in your mouth braised beef with beautifully intense red wine sauce served with herb gnocchi. Truly mouth-watering. Then there is our Fettuccine Alfredo, which is a classic pasta dish of smoked chicken, Italian sausage and a parmesan cream sauce. During lockdowns we shared some of our secret recipes so everyone could recreate these at home,” said David.
David states that moving forward he hopes the top floor will be popular with tour groups visiting Carrickfergus; “it’s one of the best features, that provides a real private experience with amazing views over Belfast Lough.” Customers who are lucky enough to book a window table or sit on the balcony will experience exceptional views.
Another highlight to come out of the first lockdown was the popularity of the restaurant’s ‘gelato’, a healthier alternative to ice-cream and a sweet treat perfect for summer.
“During the first lockdown we set up a new counter to sell gelato on the street and the place had never been busier. People were coming from all around, that was a really positive period for us considering.
“The gelato is very popular with kids, especially the dragon fruit sorbet and blue banana flavours because of the bright colours. We mix these together sometimes to create a unicorn flavour.” David said.
David believes that Carrickfergus is a very ‘up and coming’ region and whilst before lockdown people were choosing to go to Belfast to eat out, they are now choosing to embrace the local economy more than ever, so much so that it is essential to book your table in advance to avoid disappointment.
Learn more at: www.castelloitalia.co.uk