A new Italian has opened its doors in the heart of Henley-on-Thames this week and we stopped by to grab our verdict.

More than 150 guests spilt out onto Market Square from the now 21st Piccolino restaurant in the UK for a canape and champagne reception on its launch night (Monday, June 24).

We headed inside to try out the food ahead of its opening week.

Following a £2 million investment in the Grade II listed building, you can expect the best in Italian elegance from the moment you enter through the magical specially-commissioned 'riverwalk' entrance taking guests into the main dining area.

There is also a courtyard area within the restaurant, perfect for a glass of wine and dinner on a summer evening. Don't worry there is a contractable roof.

(Image: Piccolino)

Sat down and flicking through the menu, it's obvious there is an extensive choice of all the Italian classics in antipasti, pasta, risotto, and pizza as well as fish and cuts of meat, including 21-day aged Wagyu steaks.

The wine menu also followed suit with a plethora of choices coupled with a cocktail list which included the well-known favourites as well as some fun twists such as a violet and hibiscus mojito and an apple and raspberry cosmopolitan.

After much deliberation, we had settled on our choices.

For my starter I went for 'Carpaccio Di Fassona'. The beef was perfectly thinly sliced with a herby Venetian sauce topped with a tasty rocket and parmigiano reggiano salad.

(Image: Newsquest) My partner went for scallops, which were served with a golden-brown sear that contrasted nicely with the creamy white potatoes alongside a zesty salmoriglio sauce.

Now perhaps the only slight downer of the evening was the spaghetti carbonara, a staple of Italian cuisine, but sadly cam with a consistency of slightly watery sauce that missed the creaminess from the emulsification of eggs and cheese.

However, in stark contrast, the slow-cooked beef shin tortelloni was the highlight of the night.

The tortelloni was masterfully prepared, with delicate pasta encasing a sumptuous red wine beef filling.

The beef was perfectly slow-cooked, offering a deep, savoury flavour that melded beautifully with the subtle sweetness of the red wine reduction.

A sage butter added a fragrant note while toasted hazelnuts provided a delightful crunch.

(Image: Newsquest)

For dessert, we enjoyed the ‘dolci con amici’ platter. Simply translated as ‘sweets with friends'.

The selection included panna cotta, semifreddo, millefoglie, and tiramisù.

Each dessert brought something unique to the table. The panna cotta was silky and smooth, the semifreddo light and refreshing, the millefoglie flaky and creamy, and the tiramisu a well-executed classic with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cream.

(Image: Newsquest)

To cap off the evening, we indulged in a hazelnut martini, which proved to be the perfect end to the meal.

It was expertly crafted, with a smooth blend of hazelnut liqueur and vodka, offering a sweet yet balanced finish that complemented the desserts beautifully.

The restaurant chain, which also opened a new site nearby in Marlow across the Buckinghamshire border, will certainly elevate the Henley food scene with its authentic Italian offering.

Andrew Garton, CEO of Individual Restaurants, said: “We are thrilled to officially open Piccolino in Henley and thank the community for the warm welcome and joining us to celebrate our opening.

“We pride ourselves on serving authentic Italian cuisine, made with the finest ingredients, served with the warmest Italian hospitality and we are delighted to bring our extraordinary dining experience to the town and be part of the Henley community.”

  • 20 Market Place, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AH
  • For restaurant bookings and more information go to piccolinorestaurants.com/henley-vinyl/
  • Call  01491 521746