[Manchester, city centre] Salvi's Cucina

I hate it when we go to a new place and find we’re the only customers. It makes me wonder if everyone else knows something that we should have known about. A few more tables did get occupied later but it must have disappointed the restaurant that there were not more. And they might rightly be disappointed as the food is pretty good. Pretty good, that is, generally speaking.

Arancini were one of the pretty good things. Although I think that, linguistically, anancini might suggest there is more than one sat on the plate. But the singular arancino tasted really good – a crisp breadcrumb coating to the rice which, in turn, was stuffed with a meat ragu, peas and cubes of mozzarella. Parmigiana di melanzane was another classic which was fine. A couple of slices of aubergine, topped with buffalo mozzarella and a good tomato sauce (using, we thought, those tins of cherry tomatoes for extra sweetness).

Tagliata was the classic steak, rocket and parmesan salad. It wasn’t a success. The problem was using a ribeye which was just too scaggy for the fine slicing job. And, even when you’d cut round the fat and sinew, it was just a bit more chewy than you’d want. On the other hand, a couple of sausages, heavily flavoured with fennel and black pepper, were lovely. They came with wild broccoli, which we’d never heard of before. The restaurant manager told us that it’s called friarielli and it’s found in southern Italy. Google tells me that it’s rapini, which I have heard of but never eaten (and known to Americans as broccoli rabe). There was also a side dish alleged to be roast potatoes with rosemary. However, these were actually saute potatoes rather than roast – and quite oily with no discernible rosemary.

Desserts were good. Tiramisu was excellent with a good hit from dark chocolate. And it was good to see cannolo on the menu, reflecting the owners’ Sicilian background. This divided us – my partner thought it only OK whereas I thought it was bloody lovely – crisp pastry filled with ricotta flavoured with orange and a hint of cinnamon.

We had mixed views about the service. On the one hand it was attentive without being overbearing. On the other hand, the two chefs in the open kitchen and the two front of house staff kept up a constant conversation in loud voices that bordered on the intrusive.

I rarely comment about costs but mention that they really see you coming with drinks pricing. It turns what should be a reasonably good value meal into one that doesn’t quite cross the “good value” bar.

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