For a week night, Andiamo was busier than we expected, but then we realised that part of the draw card was the large-screen television in the bar, tuned to a repeat of the running of this year's Melbourne Cup. That explained all.
The dining room was less busy, so getting a table was not a problem. Our very friendly waitress, Ellie, promptly brought water, took drink orders and presented menus.
The dining area at Andiamo is pretty uninspiring, it has to be said. The walls are almost bereft of paintings or pictures and there is little to take the eye. Conversation is not compromised despite the wooden floor and, when the weather permits, bifold doors can open on to the street, which would add to the ambience.
Problems did arise in trying to decide what to order from the very appealing menu. All the usual suspects are there, but with twists. The pate is served with pickled beetroot, the caesar salad comes with polenta croutons and the lamb main is served with a cranberry ragout.
Bill settled on the pate, which, from the mouthful I was honoured with, was delicious, smooth and full-flavoured and the ciabatta toast was still hot when it arrived at the table.
My buffalo mozzarella salad was plentiful, and the mozzarella soft and chewy. I could have used a little more tomato with basil to offset it, but the chargrilled zucchini and eggplant were welcome touches.
Bill has learned the art of pacing himself, so ordered the smaller-sized lemon-infused linguini as his main course. The lemon complemented the prawns and chorizo in the dish. Basil, tomato and roquette rounded the plate off nicely.
My risotto of broad beans and smoked blue warehou was excellent and substantial, and well accented with notes of lemon and the spicy Indian chutney kasundi, the whole smoothed with mascarpone.
Of lesser quality was Bill's lemon curd creme brulee. To my mind it was too solid, although the brulee crackled well. It was redeemed by an excellent fig and honey icecream and crisp chocolate-dipped lemon biscotti.
The recurring lemon theme called for something rich and sweet to round off the meal. A glass of Calvados apiece hit the spot.
Andiamo takes pride in the freshness of their ingredients, using them to effect in unusual and inventive ways. For casual local dining of good quality, it would be hard to beat.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $188 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, three beers and three glasses of wine, and two digestifs.
Wine list: Not so much a list as a book. Andiamo has received accolades for its wine selections, and they are deserved. I enjoyed the Soho Stella sauvignon blanc, and Bill was very happy with his Hawkes Bay amber beer.
Verdict: Herne Bay locals have had the pleasure of Andiamo for more than 25 years. It would be hard to go past this restaurant for casual bistro dining.