[West Didsbury, Manchester] Piccolino

A family dinner at this branch of the Manchester based mini-chain of Italian gaffs, located mainly across the north, with 21 outlets. We’ve had lunch in one before, ages back but hadn’t felt a need to go back. In the event, it proved to be better than expected (although not faultless). It was packed and noisy and I did find it a tad difficult to hold a conversation at times (but then I am a tad Mutt & Jeff). Menus in Italian places are rarely short but this was on the shortish side – eight or so pizza, a dozen pasta dishes, other protein based plates. Everyone is going to find something to eat.

“Specials” are restricted to a couple of dishes based on a seasonal ingredient. Currently, that’s purple sprouting broccoli and it formed the basis of one starter, cooked but served cold. It was dressed with salty anchovies, thinly sliced garlic and chunks of a really tasty mozzarella. It worked. As did the other starter – a simple tomato bruschetta – crisp bread, decent oil, good flavour to the tomatoes.

Mains were a game of two halves. Sirloin steak was generally disappointing – underflavoured, underseasoned and quite scaggy. Chips and salad are chargeable extras. They were fine, although this now turns what initially looks like a reasonably priced steak into a pricy and poor value one. The pasta dish was absolutely fine – troffiete, chicken, cream sauce, pine nuts and shreds of crisp vegetables – a comforting plate.

Only one of us wanted dessert, choosing a pistachio ice cream which just wasn’t very nice – most of it was left.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold