“ Address: 14 Paradise Street / Liverpool One / Liverpool / L1 8JF / Tel: 0151 708 6353 „
Pesto is a small chain of Italian restaurants - there are currently 2 in Manchester and 1 in Liverpool with plans to open a 4th in Glasgow later this year. The Liverpool branch is based in the Liverpool One shopping complex and has 2 floors so plenty of capacity. Pesto is different to a traditional Italian restaurant - the menu is based on piatinni or small dishes to share with your fellow diners - basically an Italian version of Spanish tapas.
We went with a large party (15 of us) so we had a set menu which is available for parties of 8 or more but I did sneak a look at the main menu - there are over 40 dishes ranging from bread and olives to meat dishes as well as rice and pasta based options. Individual dishes range from £2.45 to £3.95, I imagine most people would order 2 or 3 each.
Our menu was priced at £14.95 each which offered good value as we had plenty of food. We started with bread and olives then Insalate Caprese (buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil). We had 2 pasta dishes, one was suitable for veggies - farfalle with basil pesto - this tasted fine but was nothing special, the other was spaghetti with meatballs and these were great - very succulent with a lovely rich flavour and fresh tomato sauce - I'd happily have taken the leftovers home if there had been any! The other veggie dishes were Arancini - deep fried balls of risotto rice with mozzarella in the centre which were delicious and pizza margherita which tasted as good as the pizza I had in Italy. It was maybe a little plain for those that prefer more toppings on their pizza but I loved it. There were supposed to be sautéed potatoes as well but these never appeared - it does say on the website that the menu may vary at different locations and we didn't really miss them as there was still plenty to choose from. We also had chicken wings substituted for a chicken breast in white wine dish but again these were delicious and the substitution wasn't a problem. Carnivores also had calamari - I was a little disappointed with this as its one of my favourites but it was a little greasy and chewy and the aioli wasn't garlicky enough - and skewers of chicken wrapped in ham which were lovely.
The set menu made dining in a big group much more straight forward than all ordering individually and although the dishes weren't exactly what I would have picked there was something for everyone to choose from. The food arrived quickly and staff were attentive though it did take a while for them to take our drinks order when we first arrived. We stuck to beer and soft drinks but there is an extensive wine list and a cocktail menu too. I finished with a cappuccino but several people had desserts which looked lovely - the menu had Italian favourites such as Tiramisu and Panacotta and everyone who had one seemed to enjoy them.
So while our experience wasn't outstanding it was above average and I'm looking forward to trying Pesto again and sampling some different dishes - with a menu this extensive it will take a while to work my way through them all!