Rustico has been a long-established Southern-Italian Aberdeen staple since it opened in 2001.
Independent and family-run, Rustico offers Mediterranean classics in the heart of the Granite City in a 50s-style trattoria over two floors.
Despite not having a reservation, my friend and I were walked through the fairly busy restaurant and shown to a table, decked out in a traditional red-checked tablecloth.
For a weeknight, the restaurant was quietly buzzing with chatter and the clinking of wine glasses.
There was a homely ambience and we soon settled down to choose from the extensive menu of Italian classics.
We were approached by a friendly waiter who read out the specials to us from a chalkboard and left us to decide on a wine from the expertly-chosen wine list.
I looked out for a full-bodied red to pair with our pasta mains, and soon chose a bottle of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Though packing a punch of red berry and peppery flavours, the wine was smooth and went down a treat as we munched on the complimentary bread and oils on our table.
A fan of fresh and vibrant dishes, I sought out the ultimate pairing of Italian flavours for my starter – the Caprese salad.
Slices of soft and moist mozzarella lay on fresh chopped tomatoes that burst with sweet, juicy flavours.
A bright basil oil was drizzled over the plate and with a few twists of fresh, cracked black pepper, the starter was perfect.
My dining companion also stuck to the traditional theme, deciding on bruschetta.
Another simple dish, the starter relied on the quality of the ingredients to upgrade it from standard fare and the bruschetta did not disappoint.
The tomatoes were sweet and juicy, drizzled with a strong olive oil on thick crunchy bread.
For my main, I opted for the Rigatoni con sugo di salsiccia – large pasta tubes tossed with Italian pork and fennel sausages with a tomato ragu.
It was a generous portion and the rigatoni shape of the pasta meant it held the rich sauce well. However, I found the fennel sausages to be thrown into the dish haphazardly, barely chopped any smaller than their original size. I was also disappointed to find the sausages just a touch too coarse. Unfortunately I spent more time cutting up the meat than I did enjoying the aniseed flavour of the fennel.
My friend, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed her pollo porcini – linguini pasta with chicken, garlic, porcini and oyster mushroom in a decadent mascarpone and Parmesan sauce.
The kick of garlic balanced out the creaminess of the sauce, and the mushrooms added an earthy flavour.
Still with room for more, we decided that a slice of tiramisu and cheesecake would finish off the meal perfectly.
My homemade tiramisu was definitely the highlight of the night, the mascarpone was deliciously creamy and paired perfectly with the strong coffee running through it.
My friend had a similar revelation with her blackcurrant cheesecake, which was creamy in the middle with a sharp, fruity tang on top. Once more, the portions were plentiful and after a complimentary shot of chilled limoncello, we were on our way home to sleep off our huge Italian feast.