It’s only just reopened, but Manchester’s oldest independently-owned Italian is already busy on the Friday evening we go, even though it’s early.
There are couples on dates, and long-awaited catch-ups with families and friends. People have dressed up to come out for cocktails and dinner. Shirts have been ironed and high heels put on for the first time in months.
Friday night feels like an occasion again.
Apart from the safety protocols in place – hand sanitiser on the way in, floor arrows pointing to one way systems, tables well spaced, staff wearing masks and gloves – it almost feels like normal.
And even the safety precautions don’t feel too intrusive or distracting.
Service is as welcoming and friendly as ever. Even the masks the staff are wearing look as chic and non-clinical as possible. Trust the Italians to make it all somehow look effortless.
As our server enthusiastically recommends drinks for us – a glass of something special to accompany the main, a non-alcoholic kiwi daiquiri for the person driving – it’s a nice reminder of everything we miss about being in restaurants.
As well as plenty of choice by the bottle and glass, Don Giovanni also offers wines using the Coravin preservation system, which allows premium wines to be served by the glass without pulling the cork.
It basically means you can try a glass of something really special, without the eye-watering price tag if you’d had to order it by the bottle.
My eye is drawn to a 2015 Barolo from Prunotto, one of the top five estates in Piedmont (£11.50 for a 125ml glass).
My last holiday abroad saw me visit Alba in northern Italy for the annual white truffle festival. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about a heavenly bowl of fresh pasta tossed simply in butter and generous shavings of fresh truffle, washed down with a glass of Barolo in the Piedmont sunshine.
Breathing in that rich, heady aroma from the glass at Don Giovanni, I’m instantly transported back. We may not be able to go on holiday so easily at the moment, but there are other ways to treat ourselves.
And we’re transported to sunnier climes once again with the starter – a huge antipasto platter to share (£8.45 or £15.95) draped with Italian cured meats, creamy mozzarella, vivid green Italian olives, and tender pieces of peppers, courgettes and aubergine.
The cured meats, including salami, prosciutto crudo and mortadella, all come from Italy, says our server, as do the olives. And there’s also an accompanying basket of homemade bread and crisp breadsticks.
Onto mains, and what’s more classic than saltimbocca (£16.45), the delicate British rose veal escalopes wrapped with salty prosciutto ham and aromatic sage in a soft, buttery sauce.
It’s deeply rich and comforting, especially with sides of crisp, golden roasted baby potatoes with Parmesan and sweet, sticky honey roasted root vegetables (both £3.95). And it pairs perfectly with that Barolo.
Also comforting is a huge plate of pasta, in this case tagliolini with fresh Cornish crab and sweet cherry tomatoes in a velvety cream sauce (£10.95 starter or £18.95 main).
And you have to have pudding, of course. If you can’t decide, the mini dessert platter (£9.95) is the one, featuring cute miniature versions of the most popular puds.
There are profiteroles with smooth chocolate sauce, creamy panna cotta with berry compote, a deliciously boozy tiramisu, and a little pot of proper Italian vanilla gelato.
Maybe just make sure that date night dress you put on has a bit of stretch in it, or that your belt can be loosened a notch if need be.
I order a strong espresso, mainly to stop myself helplessly falling into a food-induced nap on the train home.
Generous portions of classic Italian favourites, a top wine list, and some of the friendliest service in town. Don Giovanni, we’ve missed you.