The first time that we’d really noticed Il Ponte Ristorante Italiano in Bradford on Avon was when we’d passed by paddle boarding along the river, waving to the diners using the outdoors seating area. This time, we’d changed places, swapping our boarding gear for smarter, eating out attire for a family meal out.
Il Ponte has a reputation as a very family-friendly restaurant, and certainly the welcome we all received for our early Friday evening meal backed this up. After ordering drinks, we were soon checking out the views over the river and the historic buildings that make up this pretty Wiltshire town, while also deciding what to eat.
While we waited for the food, we chatted with the manager and played a trivia game or two to pass the time – the children are getting older but a few pocket games to play when eating out are still a great distraction for easily bored children.
Our starters were superb. While the boys shared a generous helping of, according to them, “The best garlic bread ever,” their sister went for the Venison Polpette (slow cooked venison and pork meatballs with sage in tomato sauce served with Ponte bread) (£6.95) and I chose the Gamberoni Ponte (king prawns and mushrooms cooked in a creamy tomato, garlic sauce with a hint of chilli, served with Ponte bread) (£8.95).
Clearly the boys weren’t the only ones enjoyed a treat – my king prawn dish was amazing, full of flavour and with the most luscious tomato sauce you could imagine. A real treat. Of course I had to have a sneaky taste of the meatballs as well, and they too were delicious. This was already turning into a impressive meal out.
Friday is generally pizza night at our house, so it was no surprise that the children stuck with tradition and ordered a Margherita (£9.50), Picante (pepperoni, mozzarella with fresh chilli) (£11.95) and Hawaiian (£11.50). Their mum, meanwhile, went for a classic grilled sirloin served with chips and salad (£20.95) and I chose a slow-cooked pork belly served with mashed potatoes in a red wine and apple sauce with crispy black pudding (£15.95).
For younger children, there is also kids’ menu offering a range of smaller pizzas, as well as Spaghetti Bolognaise and chicken nuggets and chips, all at just £5.95 each.
Once the main courses arrived, the games were soon put away and once again, we had a table full of happy diners. The children’s pizzas looked fresh and beautifully produced, with that welcome silence descending on the table that can only accompanying happy eaters. Once the chatter did restart it was only to compliment the food, including a “These are gorgeous” from our middle child getting nods of approval from the other two.
OK, my wife’s steak was more medium than medium rare, but apart from that, our main courses were excellent too. The pork belly was perfectly cooked while the sauce and black pudding gave it a real depth of flavour. Add in a small glass of very decent house red each for the grown-ups, and we were a very content family. Throughout the meal, our waitress was perfectly attentive without being intrusive, answering the inevitable questions from the children and happily handing out extra spoons or glasses of water when requested.
Were we too full for pudding? Absolutely. Did we have it anyway? Of course. Two Tiramisus (£5.95 each), a Berry Mess (£5.95), a Chocolate Brownie (£5.95) and a selection of Italian Ice Cream (£4.50) later, and we were fit to burst, very content and once again chatting with the waitress about the food, the restaurant and her journey over from Georgia in America to being a waitress in Wiltshire.
A family meal out is always a treat, it’s just that the one at Il Ponte in Bradford on Avon was an especially good one. The setting was lovely, the food excellent and the service top notch, creating an overall impression that we are already planning a return visit. Plus – and this will make Bath diners faint with surprise – free parking (after 6pm) nearby! What a treat all round.