La Follia wants to bring a more family-orientated approach to dining in Tunbridge Wells as the new Italian restaurant arrives on Monson Road.
It is run by Sara Velutti and Antonio Padalino, a couple from Macherio in northern Italy, near the Monza racetrack and Milan.
The village is known as one of the haunts of Silvio Berlusconi, the infamous former Italian prime minister who owns the Villa Belvedere there.
Sara first came to Tunbridge Wells in 1992 – “We used to go to the old cinema and then have pizza,” she recalls – and went on to run Caffe Nero in Royal Victoria Place.
This is a new venture for the couple, who have never run their own establishment. “This is my first ‘mine’,” says Sara. “If you work in a restaurant or hotel chain, everything is already there and it’s easy. I like to do things my way.
“We want it to be as if we were cooking for friends at home,” she adds.
And she hopes to share some of the infectious Italian love of food and dining which brings a smile to the face.
“If you do it as a job, you will get stressed. If you do it when you are happy, then you get some of that back.”
In a town which already has several Italian outlets, Sara’s plan is to run a family-friendly trattoria, which is more informal and easy-going than a restaurant.
She takes over the premises from Max Farraone, who ran the deli L’Italia a Tavola on the site for 14 years before deciding to focus on food tours of his homeland at the end of last year.
In true Italian style, Sara’s mother Franca was on hand to offer advice and assistance. Though she will not be working at La Follia, her influence can be felt through some of the recipes, such as her puree of borlotti beans.
Most of their offerings will be classical Italian dishes, but with a few surprises thrown in – such as Pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta dish from Valtellina in the Alps, which nourishes walkers in the mountain refuges with local cheeses like winter speciality calera.
Sara hails from the land of risotto, but she won’t be attempting to adapt the local palette too much with the likes of marrowbone risotto, or with massive ‘elephant’s ear’ veal steaks.
On Thursday [June 9], they will he holding a pasta night which includes four different main course dishes, ranging from the much-loved staple carrettiera – spaghetti with chilli and garlic – to a more exotic pasta made out of courgettes.