[Manchester, city centre] San Carlo Cicchetti
Other than knowing that cicchetti are from Venice and are best described as “Italian tapas”, we weren’t too sure exactly what to expect from this place. It’s in a slightly odd location, tucked away in the side of the House of Fraser store and, with tables in the windows, you’re not instantly sure if you’re looking at punters or window dressing dummies.
There’s a fairly extensive menu and it’s pointed out that everything is tapas sized and presented for sharing. And it’s recommended that you start off with 5 or 6 dishes between two of you. It’s just about right – we came away satisfied but not stuffed. Had we gone in with our greedy heads on, a couple more wouldn’t have gone astray.
There’s no strict order of eating and dishes come as and when they are ready. It means you’re juggling the food to make sure you eat the hot things before they become cold things. It’s not a style that we particularly like but the quality of the food far outweighs that niggle.
There was a pizza fritta – although it seemed more like a standard calzone. A good bread dough stuffed with mozzarella and ham. There was a bruschetta selection – again good bread. In fact, very good bread. A variety of toppings - including artichokes, aubergines and a simple tomato. Straightforward, clear flavours.
Sardine fillets also came as a topping for bread and were, perhaps, the star of the show. Although that was a close call – perfectly al dente orecchiette came in a lovely tomato sauce, enhanced with the Sicilian spreadable sausage of nduja and a hefty hit of chilli. You might happily order a second portion of the pasta.
Our final dish was another winner – three slices of porchetta (I won the battle for the “seconds”) – a really nice porky flavour, a good layer of fat and very pronounced flavourings of garlic and rosemary. A couple of roast potatoes added to our carb intake.
We passed on dessert but did have an indifferent and lukewarm espresso.
San Carlo isn’t “fast food” but it is food fast. We were in and out within 45 minutes. It’s also very reasonably priced food – dishes average around seven quid.
I actually really like this place. Location is most definitely odd, but the few times I've been there, the food has really been above my expectations (maybe that's because those expectations are of a dept store restaurant). Remember enjoying the fritto misto and the carbonara was wonderful I've never been to the San Carlo's dotted around the North West but this is somewhere I often pop to when I'm back up North.