Veeno: A Sicilian mini break in Berks
A trip to Italy is off the cards right now, but give your tastebuds a mini break and eat and drink your way around Sicily while staying put in Reading,
Do not have a chain reaction to Reading’s food offering, there are indies to be found but you may need the nose of a Muddy editor to find them. Case in point, Veeno. It’s an Italian wine bar that brings a little Sicilian sunshine to Berkshire. So give your tastebuds a holiday and enjoy kick-back culture in Reading town centre.
You’ll find Veeno, opposite Reading’s Forbury Gardens. Avert your eyes from the building itself, it’s not going to win any architectural awards. Inside, well that’s a different story, with its intimate booths and spaces that adapt easily whether you’re flying solo, gazing at each other a deux or entering the fun zone with a Covid-friendly party of six. When the sunshine returns, there’s a rather lovely courtyard seating area with fairy lights.
Fancy being whisked off to Sicily without the need to quarantine for 14 days? Sashay this way, bella. Veeno is a wine bar created back in 2013 by Nino Caruso who loved and missed Italian Aperitivo – basically drinking, nibbling and relaxing after a hard day at the office. We miss that too. The work from home hangout is far less appealing.
In terms of the interiors, its got a rustic industrial vibe, that you might find at a vineyard cellar bar but with the intimacy of a restaurant. Lots of tactile wooden surfaces, dark walls, industrial details and patterned tiled floors. It’s feels authentic, giving you just an enough Italian flavour without falling into theme bar territory.
SCOFF & QUAFF
We visited for a mid-week lunch. The daytime menu is designed for speed. So if you’re in town and making a pitstop during the working day, meeting people for a quick bite or need to feed hangry kids before they totally lose it, Veeno is perfect.
It’s a crowd-pleasing menu of paninis, salads, pasta and pizzas. All made fresh using quality Italian suppliers – delivering the culinary equivalent a hug (god I miss hugging). Anyway, I went for the Pasta Of The Day, a mushroom tagliatelle and my mum played it safe with a lasagne. You cannot fault this place for value. Each lunch dish comes with a small glass of house wine or a half pint of lager. Our pasta cost £8.50 each, throw in the wine, and it beats anything you can buy in Prêt.
In the evening, the menu becomes the equivalent of putting on a nice top and a heel. There’s Italian tapas, sharing boards of cheese and cured meats, alongside nibbles and pizzas. The pace slows down and you can settle in for the long haul.
It is at this point you should have a nose around the wine list, because the offering is very good. You’ll find familiar friends, like Pinot Grigio and Montepulciano. But find the * and drink the wines made at the family vineyard in Marsala, Sicily. Once that first sip hits your lips, you’ll want the whole bottle. I chose Zibibbo – the Wine Of Love. It is this white that caused Nino’s grandfather to fall in love. And it is safe to say, it was love at first sight for me.
Wine pairings and tastings are also available, so you can tiptoe through the family vineyard and sample the lot, while stuffing your face. Taaaaaaxi!
OUT AND ABOUT
You’re in the centre of Reading, so what do you fancy? Spot of shopping? Head to The Oracle for the high street’s greatest hits – John Lewis, Zara, Apple, Reiss, Hollister, Topshop and H&M. Reading Museum is just around the corner and alongside the drawers of butterflies and stuffed animals you can see the full size Victorian replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. Forbury Gardens and The Abbey Ruins are opposite the restaurant and worth a stroll.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Lovers of Italian kick back culture. Where quality is king – from the wines from the family vineyard to the simple dishes done well. Just as Nonna cooked them.
NOT FOR: Foodies looking for sharply attentive service, and an artistic display of cookery skills. This is a relaxed bar/ restaurant, serving food and drink that is crying out to shared with friends and family.
££: Very reasonable. Nibbles are from £2.95; Pasta £8.50; Pizzas from £9.95 and sharing boards from £15.95.