Surrounded by Prosecco drinkers basking in the afternoon sun, Piccolino Restaurant Manchester falls somewhere under the category of a slightly upmarket Carluccios or Zizzis. We were greeted at the door by the reassuring mumble of sound one gets at any popular restaurant, whilst Piccolino’s staff were quick to wave a ‘Ciao’ as they passed amongst the comforting buzz.
With the sunshine twinkling across chandeliers and mirrored walls, one could almost be convinced we had stumbled into a trendy London restaurant and at a push even a Milano Bar but the cheesy UK Top 40 that tinges the atmosphere is quite useful in reminding you not to get ahead of yourself.
One thing I would like to point out, is that everyone in the restaurant took the form of either smartly dressed businessmen or the middle-class families of Didsbury, so if you are planning on coming to Piccolino, perhaps remember to leave your ripped jeans and hoodies at home, as we ended up feeling slightly out of place.
After taking our coats, we were seated at the bar to wait for our table (we were early) and so decided to order some drinks. In terms of price, the drinks here are not cheap, but if you are willing to spend around twenty-five pounds each on a nice lunch, then you can have it all — cocktails included.
For drinks, we had a glass of the house white and a ‘Paloma’ cocktail, which consisted of ‘Jimador reposado tequila’, elderflower liquor, lime, agave nectar and a drop of trademark Italian San Pellegrino. Contrasting to the many bad cocktail experiences I’ve had, the cocktails here aren’t sickly sweet and syrupy but instead really refreshing and palatable, I could have easily had another.
The whole experience of sitting in Piccolino is part of the meal. The restaurant is trimmed with deli counters that flaunt their wholesome produce whilst simultaneously working up your appetite. As for both of us, who were very hungry by this point: the meats, cheeses, cakes and breads that filled the glass cabinets of each delicatessen; worked synonymously with the lavish plates of food drifting around with waiters, teasing our appetite and making our mouths water.
Despite being a chain, the menu at Piccolino covers all bases, many of which are avoided at most Italian chains. Emphasised by the decor, Italian speaking staff, plush baby blue leather seats and copper pizza oven, the menu feels genuine and the ingredients good quality.
For our meal, we decided to order a Spaghetti Carbonara, as we felt this was a good control for judging any Italian restaurant and Piccolino’s scored highly in comparison. Topped with a poached egg and a rasher of bacon, the carbonara is creamy and rich but does not tread the dangerous boundary of being overly salty or cheesy which can be the case for a lot of Carbonaras in British chains.
We also shared Beef Carpaccio with a rocket and parmesan salad, bread-crumbed Asparagus accompanied by a poached egg and Courgette fries, all of which was delicious, the Courgette fries in particular. Although, I would probably not order the asparagus again as it is quite expensive and you only receive 5 stalks for your eight pounds, which weren’t remarkably sweet to justify such a price.
Seated behind the Patisserie counter, with the warm, soft waft of Crème Patisserie tempting our noses, it would have been a waste not to order a pudding from their extensive desert menu. We shared a chocolate and almond tart accompanied by vanilla Ice-cream — warm, gooey and smooth, with that melting texture that quenches even the severest of chocolate cravings. Piccolino’s chocolate and almond tart is everything a chocolate tart should be; so delicious, we were left passive-aggressively fighting over the last forkful.
Although perhaps too expensive for a daily visit, Piccolino’s is the perfect place for the occasional lunch with your mum and with wine glasses as big as your face, there’s not much at fault with this sunny, friendly Italian.
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