I tell Omar that the head chef of Gustami has sold up, opened a new place and that we need to go, explaining to him it would be potentially great to have a Barney addition in Erdington. “The food was never the reason people went to Gustami” he tells me. It was the warm welcome and huge portions of pasta, blasted out over a relentless assault of Pavarotti, which is fine, given chef once worked for the big man.

The new venue is in a part of Erdington known as Gravely, presumably because it’s rough and the drive may contain gypsies. It’s called Pane & Vino, which makes sense when you enter, given the wine is lined up against the wall and the various breads in the fridge showcased like a Gilbert & George installation. A painting of Pavarotti is on the wall, and on the on the speakers are The Three Tenors. A similar sum will leave your wallet to eat here.

We try a cross section of the menu and it dawns on me that maybe Omar is right. Garlic bread is dyed daffodil yellow with tumeric, perked by lots of garlic, a little mozzarella, and some very good tomato. Then there is the pasta croquettes, outer shell dense, inside filled with short pasta and ragu that’s a bit short of seasoning and chalky in texture. Two for £7. I take one home and eat it for dinner.

My main is pasta with a sauce of nduja and scamorza cheese best eaten at night in a power-cut. The sauce is clunky, with chunks of celery and onion bobbing around the mix. The pasta is very good; hand-rolled like all of the pasta, and the use of scamorza adds a subtle smokiness that works well. Omar has a steak because he can’t believe the £15 price tag in 2023. On the upside it’s cooked to the medium requested. On the downside it’s likely been stewed in a tepid swimming pool. The veg are painfully overcooked, drizzled in a sweetened reduction of balsamic vinegar which does little but make the dull colours even more depressing to look at.

I’m being harsh. I’m sorry. The lunch we are there it fills slowly with locals, and a look across those tables tell me that maybe we didn’t order the best. The pizza looks genuinely decent, as does all of the pasta that passes us. And then there is the wine, for which I will come back to eat pizza and pasta for. We drink a very good Barbaresco at £55 which is about retail price, leaving us with a bill that Omar paid and I didn’t see. Go get some pasta, make sure you splurge on the wine, enjoy the free shot of Marsala and take in that soothing opera. Do not order the steak.


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