Set on the busy corner of Jervois and Ardmore Road, but offering an intimate escape from its bustling suburban surrounds, Squisito Trattoria is Herne Bay’s charming new neighbourhood eatery, offering simple, delicious food, beautiful wine and a very convenient takeaway window (which is proving to be a godsend over the festive season).
Opened by Tony Matches and Buki Prekazi (both coming from extensive careers in hospitality in New Zealand and overseas) Squisito offers exactly what you want from a neighbourhood spot. Step inside the framed-glass frontage and you will be greeted with a space that is sleek and contemporary while still feeling warm, welcoming and fun. Offsetting its simple, black furnishings (which Matches tells me he and his team handmade themselves), Squisito’s walls are rendered in unexpected tones of peach and vibrant blue, a combination that not only works to inject a bit of character into the small space but cultivate a relaxed, elevated vibe. (In fact, Matches explains that they called on design consultant Steve Reid to help create the perfect environment at Squisito — something that, in our opinion, has been achieved with considerable success.) Here, one might just as happily park up on the comfortable, window-side bench seats to enjoy a quiet after-work drink, as they might luxuriate in a long, drawn-out dinner or a convivial night with friends — such is the versatility of Squisito’s space and menu.
As for the latter, Squisito’s food offering has been inspired by the flavours of the Mediterranean, allowing Matches and Prekazi to create dishes that draw on a vast range of culinary influences — from Italy to Spain to Portugal to North Africa. The menu, Matches tells me, will be ever-changing and seasonally driven, anchored in al dente pasta, perfectly-cooked meats and wood-fired pizza, but with the core focus always on offering tasty food to suit any kind of palate. At the moment, there is a strong Italian influence running through all of Squisito’s dishes, from small bites to heavier mains to perfectly-executed pizzas, and everything feels fresh and full of flavour.
Highlights include the mouth-watering roast duck gnocchi with black olives, mushrooms and pecorino, the venison (cooked overnight in Squisito’s wood-fired oven), served with a sprinkling of blueberries and grana padano (perfect for those seeking something slightly rich) and the lemon and prawn risotto with avocado and shaved parmesan. That said, it’s almost impossible to pass up one of Squisito’s wood-fired pizzas, which range from the classic Margherita and prosciutto varieties to pork and fennel sausage with broccoli and pecorino, and a garlic prawn and chilli option. All of Squisito’s pizzas are made using a San Marzano tomato base, which delivers a deeper, more authentic flavour.
There is also, of course, a range of tantalising vegetarian dishes (from vegetarian lasagne to pizza topped with cauliflower, confit mushrooms and wood-fired roasted pumpkin) as well as a concise but undeniably enticing dessert menu of tiramisu, chocolate mousse (with caramelised orange) and basil and lemon panna cotta.
Notably, there isn’t a wine list at Squisito. Instead, Matches explains to me that customers can simply walk up to the eatery’s extensive wine racks (taking up an entire wall), choose the bottle that takes their fancy, take it back to their table and pour away. It’s a very casual, help-yourself style that allows diners to get up close and personal with Squisito’s vast and varied wine offering, and allows Matches and Prekazi the freedom to regularly change the wines they choose to stock. Really, it’s part of the beauty of Squisito that nothing here is totally set in stone, making it the perfect place for locals who are looking for somewhere they can pop into regularly without running the risk of it ever feeling repetitive or stale.
Aside from Squisito’s dine-in offering, Matches and Prekazi have also launched a strategic (and already popular) takeaway option for anyone seeking Squisito’s delicious food without actually sitting in. Via a dedicated takeaway window located on Ardmore Road just down from the restaurant’s entrance, hungry punters can order anything off Squisito’s menu to enjoy at home, which is a pretty appealing prospect, particularly as the festive season really starts to ramp up.
“I just wanted to create a place with a bright, interesting, atmosphere, where people could enjoy tasty food and a fun, neighbourhood vibe,” Matches tells me. “Squisito is a real local,” he continues, “a friendly eatery where friends can meet over great food and great wine… come in and say hi, you’ll probably know someone sitting at another table.”
Tuesday until Thursday, 4pm — 10pm
Friday until Sunday, 12pm — 10pm
170a Jervois Road