[Irby, Wirral] Da Piero
I find it hard to find “proper” Italian food in the north west. And, by “proper”, I mean top quality ingredients, cooked simply to allow the natural flavours to shine through. Even in the good places, the menu seems to read more of Carnforth than Calabria. So it was with some surprise that I saw this little place scoring a 5 in the Good Food Guide. I was even more surprised to read the online menu and see hardly a nod towards the usual run-of-the-mill Anglo Italian trattoria stuff. It just had to go on the list to be visited.
And it is a tiny place – just 14 covers, although they are about to expand into the shop next door to take them up to 32. Piero runs the kitchen upstairs with a couple of helpers; his wife, Dawn, is a very welcoming front-of-house. Although she missed a trick in not offering an aperitif.
The menu is a mix of Sicilian and Northern Italian dishes, with a few more generic items thrown in. Caponata is about as Sicilian as it gets and, although not the world’s greatest fan of fried aubergines, I ordered it. And was really glad I had. It was a lovely silky soft stew of aubergine, celery, pine nuts and olives – sweet and vinegary at the same time and served warm – not hot or cold - warm. The other starter was more of an assembly job – bowl of rocket, handful of crayfish tails, dressing of oil, lemon and garlic. A pleasant enough light beginning.
We then shared a plate of linguine with lemon sauce. Perfect “al dente” pasta. A clingy dressing that had a faint taste of lemon. Perhaps too faint in our view.
For mains, a beef dish which, in the Sicilian dialect, is “canni cunzata”. Very thin slices of beef rump, marinated in oil & garlic and then quickly char-grilled. It was served with some grilled tomatoes on the vine and was an absolute belter of a dish. The other plate was a simple sounding sausages and lentils. But here, two large and very meaty sausages, made on the premises, were spiced up with a decent chilli hit, before being sat on Umbrian lentils, cooked with carrot and celery. Excellent contrast in texture and flavour – but you still knew you were eating something very much still a rustic dish.
Sticking with the Sicilian theme, my partner ordered a cannolo for dessert. Rich with sweetened ricotta and orange peel which the menu notes is candied by Piero over a period of 12 days. I went for a chocolate semifreddo. This was another rich, delicious concoction, although there wasn’t really much of the “freddo” left.
At this point, Piero arrived for a brief chat with each table which is always a nice touch.
A couple of excellent espressos finished off a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
So, finally made it up to Da Piero, and I had to book three weeks in advance to bag a Saturday night booking. They've now expanded into the space next door, which makes it a little less tiny, but still pretty tiny. They haven't got the radiators working in the next door bit yet, so we were a bit chilly until the little plug in heater started to work its magic.
Anyhow, I loved it here. The caponata (not something I would typically order) was fantastic - a perfect balance of sweetness, sourness and saltiness. We also got the tomato soup, and the purgatory beans (I can't remember the back story, but it's a dish of small haricot beans braised till tender and doused with good quantities of good Sicilian olive oil) - all were great. I was good and didn't go the whole hog of primi, and main. So my meal ended with my linguine a la vongole. Again, very impressed - it's one of my favourite dishes and this was just right.
On the other side of the table, husband and father-in-law were partaking in a pretty gorgeous spaghetti carbonara (no cream, just egg yolk), and then the seared tuna steak, and the sausages with lentils. All great. Even the chicken thighs were lovely - probably the surprise of the evening - incredibly tender thigh meat embellished with a wonderfully cooked soffrito.
Lovely staff, great food, incredibly unassuming location. I was really glad I finally got to go.
We went there last night on Harters' recommendation as Wirral newbies. So excited that this is 10 minutes from our door as it ticks the box for the perfect local.
Dawn is front of house, and hubbie Piero and son Alan share the cooking. They met in Rome when she was an air stewardess and bizarrely she managed to persuade him to move to Irby ;)
Really lovely, friendly, chatty lady. We did benefit by being the only customers on a Tuesday (are people here scared of the rain?!) but got the star treatment.
Himself had a competent crab salad and I had the vongole to start. As per the above, nice al dente pasta, generous with the clams (French) and a chilli kick. Perfect rendition.
I then had the Sicilian carne, which was thin rump steaks marinated in lemon, garlic and herbs, very pleasant, and himself had Piero's Nonna's slightly odd recipe of breaded and fried steak. OK, bit weird. We shared some caponata and 'country peas' done in stock with pancetta.
Only disappointments were the cheese course, which was heavy on the pecorino/parmesan and came with plastic wrapped crackers, all a bit plane food, and the wine list is oddly steep.
We'll be back, again and again. I imagine we'll probably go heavy on the pasta henceforward though - there was a nice looking one with sausage and chard, and the lemon one mentioned above would be great, I'm sure.
Please visit. Especially on a rainy Tuesday evening! We need them to stay in business, for entirely selfish reasons! Oh, and they're getting the first mussels of the season in a fortnight...
I have been wanting to go to Da Piero for ages, but even though we live in Liverpool, it's a real pain to get to if you both want to have a drink - despite our pretty decent underground system, it's nowhere near a train station. Anyway, we finally went this weekend, and stayed at a friends house near (ish) by.
I had the spaghetti alle vongole to start and it was delicious - delicate flavours, very slight chilli kick - just as it should be. He had the tuna tartare - it comes with rocket and tomatoes and lots of parsley. Lovely flavours, but raw tuna just doesn't really taste of anything, so I guess it's just a medium for the dressing (a bit like steak tartare) - but, having said that, we both loved it.
I had the roast pork for my main course, which comes with cavolo nero. It was good - a generous portion and very tender pork - but the meat tasted reheated, and I really don't like that taste, so it wasn't as wonderful as I had hoped - my husband loved it though. I suppose they need to do this because they are such a small restaurant, and can't roast a piece of pork for each customer who orders it.
He had he swordfish - perfectly cooked and a great flavour. We had side orders of the peas with pancetta (loved it) and the mash (lovely too, with parmesan generously sprinkled on top). I would have been happy with a main course of peas and mash.
We were too full for puddings, but shared a cheese board. This was a huge portion of mostly hard cheeses and one blue. The blue was good and creamy, there were two decent strong hard cheeses and a couple more bland ones, but not bad. Sorry, but I've forgotten which cheeses they were, but I think they name them on the menu.
Overall, a lovely meal and lovely people - although it is expensive, particularly if you have a pasta dish as a starter and if your main dishes do not include veg and/or spuds and you need to order side dishes. Wine isn't cheap either, but the prosecco is good value as is the pretty decent house red by the carafe. Despite the slight 'miss' with my main course, I would go again tomorrow if my bank account allowed it There are plenty of other dishes I would like to try ...
I finally made it!
I was greedy and wanted to try two of the pasta dishes so asked for slightly smaller portions but was told in a very no-nonsense manner that wasn't possible, which was a bit irritating given we'd just been told everything was cooked to order so may take time to arrive (which it did, probably because the place was full).
I had high expectations of the spaghetti vongole but was disappointed - there weren't many clams and it was quite dry so not much flavour. the sausage farfalle with radicchio and cream that I had to follow was better.
the stand out dish of the evening was my friend's swordfish carpaccio with pink peppercorns - just stunning. her scallops main was v small, but the menu did say it would only be two scallops. we had a portion of the cannellini beans to go with this, which were wonderful.
I loved the espresso ice cream but can't remember what I thought about the tiramisu, which suggests it was average.
so, a mixed experience but if I was local I'd happily go back and enjoy finding the gems on the menu.
re: abby d
We went on Tuesday night, I was very pleased with the vongole - no tomato or cream, which is how I liked it. Linguine with lemon was a refreshing change.
Mains, roast pork and the sausages were really good, though the sausages (not my dish) were very rich and powerful so it's a very substantial meal.
Overall, would be a good restaurant anywhere, and remarkable in the culinary desert that is Chester and Wirral.