Il Giardino is a a family-run Italian restaurant which enjoys a prime seafront position, looking out over the beach and sea to Wales and facing Clevedon’s iconic Victorian Pier. It was established over thirty years ago by Francesco and Adriana Sormani who have a rich history in catering that spans decades. Francesco managed quite a few restaurants in Bristol, notably a number of the Berni Inns, Harvey’s, and then his own restaurant Sormani’s on Baldwin Street, before moving to Clevedon in 1987. The property was used to be owned by Adriana’s sister and was also run as a restaurant, before Francesco and Adriana took it over. Adriana had previously helped run Forte’s Ice-cream Parlour (owned by her parents), which was situated next door, and is currently Tiffin’s.
The day-to-day running of the restaurant has been taken over by Renato their son, although Francesco and Adriana still help out when needed. Renato has three sisters, all of whom have worked in the restaurant at some point, but have managed to ‘escape’. Having said that, Renato’s youngest sister, Sandra is always willing to lend a hand if needed.
Renato has only been back in Clevedon for ten years, his parents wisely let him pursue his own ambitions and he worked as a journalist for ten years in London. However, when his father started talking of retirement and selling up, he felt the time was right to “come home” and take on the restaurant. He has since met his wife Marianne, and had two boys Francesco, named after his father named and Matteo. And who knows? Maybe one day one of them will take up the reins.
As soon as you cross over the threshold of Il Giardino you are treated with the utmost courtesy. On each occasion that we have been recently, we have enjoyed an aperitif in the conservatory whilst perusing the menu. A very knowledgeable member of staff goes through the menu with you, advising of the specials, noting any dietary requirements or special requests and answering questions. If you are lucky you may get to sit outside on the terrace in the Summer months and enjoy the spectacular sunsets for which Clevedon is so well known. The whole culinary experience from start to finish is informative and relaxing.
The menu itself is very comprehensive and boasts a wide array of mouth watering Italian starters. (photos of some of our favourites below. On our most recent visit, my husband had the Fritto Misto – a selection of deep fried quality mixed seafood with a homemade mayonnaise and I had Cozze Marinara mussels cooked with white wine, garlic and onions. Both dishes were expertly seasoned and tasted heavenly.
There are a lovely range of main courses available including pasta, fresh fish, red meat and poultry. We chose from the extensive fish menu because the fish dishes are so skillfully cooked and the sauces expertly seasoned and balanced. Bruno, the chef at Il Giardino certainly knows his sauces.
We chose Rospo Provinciale monkfish with a white wine, tomato and garlic sauce and Branzino al Finocchio seabass with a very decadent, rich, velvety, white wine, fennel and cream sauce. The flavours of the sauces were absolutely divine; both light and subtly seasoned. Our main courses were served with a selection of freshly cooked, seasonal vegetables.
It is extremely rare for us to have a dessert but on this occasion we did! The desserts are displayed in Italian on a mini blackboard and the waitress goes through each one. I had a slice of Torta Noci the most scrumptious walnut tart served with a vanilla ice-cream, Chantilly cream and a strong espresso sauce. My husband had Lo Sbriciolata which was a pear and chocolate crumble, delightfully served in a tea cup and accompanied by vanilla ice-cream and Chantilly cream. The desserts are always magnificently presented.
The service in this elegant restaurant, with its walls adorned with images of all things Italian was impeccable; attentive but not overbearing. The ambience is always warm and welcoming and we would recommend it without hesitation. If you are planning to visit, be warned that you do need to reserve three of four weeks in advance.
In our time at Clevedon, we have been there on numerous special occasions and never once been disappointed.
If you want to check out Il Giardino yourself, you can do so here: