[Hale Barns, Greater Manchester] San Carlo Fiorentina

San Carlo is a regular dinner place for us. Now, when I say “regular”, I mean we get here a couple of times a year which, eating out every week, is about as regular as we get anywhere. We were last here in February - I didnt post my review of that meal to HO, as it wasnt so long after the previous meal.

It’s a funny place. Some visits, it’s busy, noisy and blingy. Others, it’s all but empty and totally devoid of atmosphere. This was a noisy night. Service is always good – in fact, sometimes it’s so on the ball, it’s intrusive. Food is consistently good.

Scallops had been perfectly cooked in the oven and served on the half shell, with a drizzle of olive oil, a hint of garlic (more would have been good) and a little sprinkling of breadcrumbs. A light start to any meal.

There was nothing light about the other starter. Just cooked chicken livers, overflowing a slice of grilled baguette, in a very rich sauce. The menu mentioned grapes but there was no sign of any. Pity, really, as they would have lightened it a tad.

We both went with pasta for a main course. Zitoni was a new pasta for me – hollow tubes the diameter of a drinking straw. There’s a really nice tomato sauce and chunks of a spicy Tuscan sausage. A really big chilli hit here and a sprinkling of pecorino over everything. From the north of Italy with the sausage, to the south with Rigatoni alla Norma. It’s one of a number of pasta dishes which can be ordered as a starter or a main course. It’s always delicious. Long cooked aubergine, with a tomato, basil and garlic sauce. They cook the pasta properly “al dente” here which I suspect some customers might find a bit undercooked for their tastes. It’s certainly a borderline matter but better that than the overcooked pasta you often get in some places.

Only one of us wanted dessert. I simply can’t resist their tiramisu which is my “joint best ever” (along with a place in Burlington Vermont). It’s everything you want from it. Sweet, but not overly so, with a good hit from coffee and a background flavour of booze. We finished with good coffee (not always a given, even in Italian restaurants). It comes with thin, crisp shards of pastry, dusted with icing sugar.

Another good dinner.


I have a 6th edition copy of Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking cookbook, published in 1964. In there was a recipe for chicken livers which I’d used to cook one time for some visiting American friends - it called for 10 whole chicken livers to be sauteed in half a stick of butter. For the sauce, a combination of milk and cream. My friends loved it but said it was an extremely rich dish. This, coming from Oregonians who’re used to the cream-heavy Pacific Northwest cuisine. :joy: