“ 34 Deansgate, Manchester. Tel: 0161 834 5391. „
* Prices may differ from that shown
I've been to little Italy in New York and in London, and now I have in Manchester. Here it's not an area of the city, however, instead it's a restaurant. An Italian restaurant. Now that may seem obvious to you, but since the receipt in front of me has the name, the words Italian Specialties and a map of Italy just to be on the safe side, I thought I'd err on the edge of caution and spell it out for you. Little Italy is on Deansgate, at the Arndale end rather than the Opera House end - typical, since we went there when we were going to and parking at the theatre, so we had a longish walk there and back. We went because Quy had to come straight from work for the 7.30 show of the King and I (good show, see the op), and wouldn't have chance to eat otherwise. It was going to be a takeaway, but he was a bit smart in his work suit, I had on brand spanking new trousers and shiny shiny shoes, and we hadn't eaten out for a whole, erm, 5 days. Little Italy is in an odd place, because it's bordered on both sides by other Italian restaurants. It is the smallest of the lot, and has the most limited menu too, but it looked friendly and quietist, so we went in. Quietist seemed to be a little exaggeration it turned out - apart from an elderly gentleman who was finishing his coffee, we were the only customers. It was about 6.30 on a weeknight, but still, other places we'd past had been full. We were seated towards the back with a view out onto Deansgate through the main windows. There were about 8 other tables nearby, but as we left later on we saw there was another section hidden to the left. The menu wasn't that extensive at all, but we both found things to eat. They do have a choice of pizzas and pastas and meat dishes, but this choice is not very large. For once, shock horror, Quy didn't order steak, but this was mainly to do with the fact that they didn't have it... I had garlic bread - quelle s
urprise - which was an unusual style (4 thick slices of farmhouse bread topped with garlic and herbs). Quy had ribs which he liked but which were extremely hot when they arrived. Although I haven't eaten meat for about 15 years, I would take this as a good sign. The main courses chosen were pasta and the peppercorn chicken, the latter of which was one of the day's specials. One thing which would make me go back again, and again, and again (if I weren't going to be miles away from Manchester in a week) was the fact that we were given our own pepper mill and parmesan container. I *love* those huge mills, and even though our was small, it was still a good 30 cm high. If we hadn't been in a hurry I would have been happy to play all night, taking only the odd mouthful. We did have a deadline though, so I could only indulge in the odd grind and shake. The food was good, freshly cooked, nicely presented and mouth-wateringly delicious. Although I was expecting it to be pretty expensive since it was in the city centre (and the expensive part of the city centre at that) but the prices were amazingly reasonable. My garlic bread was £2.00 (only 20p more than the takeaways near me) and Quy's ribs 4.40 which is about standard. Pasta was a fiver and the special only 7.90, for a good sized piece with healthy portions of salad and chips. The soft drinks were 1.60 each, and there was a comparatively large wine list although I no nothing about wine so he prices and descriptions mean nothing to me. Puddings were offered but declined - my mind was already on the interval in the King and I. The choice of this was again better than expected having seen the main menu, with at least a dozen cakes and ice cream concoctions offered, for about £3 each. The service all evening was, needless to say, impressively fast and friendly. Although we were, for the most part, the only customers, I imagine that even had it been busier, they would have been just as
attentive. The setting was a pleasant -wooden floors and walls boasting plates and photos and Chianti bottles, lit up by spot lights embedded in the ceiling. There was soft Italian music playing in the background, interrupted only by the odd clink of glasses being put away. The tables had 2 cloths on each (one plain, one checked) and also held proper, linen napkins which was nice - even some of the fanciest restaurants round here let themselves down with paper serviettes. Overall it was a fantastic meal, especially since the decision to eat there was a split second one. Definitely a new favourite of mine, and should it still be in operation in 2004, I will be back.