If you count the Romans, the Italian community is the oldest in Manchester. Trouble is, it took them nearly 2,000 years to open their first restaurant. Now we’re spoilt for choice. If you want to know the best Italian restaurants in Manchester, ask an Italian for their favourite places. So we did. Maria Buonincontro has been living in Manchester for twelve years and best of all she’s from Bologna, where they know a thing or two about good food. And just to prove she’s Italian, she rides a Vespa. Buon appetito!
1. San Carlo
Of the big boys, San Carlo is one of the most authentically Italian dining experiences you will find in the country. I’ve dined at San Carlo countless times and never been disappointed. There is something for everyone. Try their capesante con spinaci (scallops in white wine and garlic on sauteed spinach) or bianchetti fritti (deep fried whitebait with baby marrows) for starters and you’ll be hooked on Italian food for life. Also from the San Carlo Group, try San Carlo Fiorentina in Altrincham for an outstanding Fiorentina steak and to feel like a celebrity (and spot some!) or San Carlo Cicchetti (opposite San Carlo) for a bottle of wine and spuntini (tapas/cicchetti).
There’s something about the décor of this award-winning modern, clean, vibrant restaurant which reminds me of when I was a child in Italy and my parents would take me to large, flamboyant restaurants with well dressed waiters, long menus and never ending courses.
42 King St West, Manchester M3 2WY
2. Le Delicatezze di Bruno
This is a little gem and perhaps Manchester’s best kept secret Italian restaurant. In the unlikely setting of Clayton, close to the Etihad, you’ll find this little quirky restaurant. Once upon a time it was a greasy spoon. Then Bruno the Italian owner started serving Italian lasagne alongside breakfast only to become a full time restaurant now completely refurbished. Still undiscovered by the city centre hipsters, this is the epitome of a real Italian restaurant – very reasonable prices, great ingredients, large portions, an ever present owner and host from whom you will receive a warm Italian welcome. Traditional, no nonsense primi and secondi with no compromises. Try Bruno’s tagliatelle alla Bolognese and you’ll understand why Bolognaise sauce should go with tagliatelle not spaghetti (it’s a match made in heaven!) Try their house wine and let Bruno give you suggestions for your meal or try their huge, delicious pizzas.
Discovered by word of mouth, saying “lets’ go to Bruno’s place” has become part of my vocabulary. It is incredibly reasonable (the spuntini are only £2.50 each), and the feeling of dining in a superb undiscovered little gem it is very similar to the one when travelling and finding a genuine spot, not being ripped off in tourist trap. Book in advance and enjoy!
564 Ashton New Rd, Manchester M11 4RP
Slow paced, relaxed atmosphere, big portions, attentive service, amazing food. I always cheekily ask in restaurants if they have freshly made pasta, and guess what? At Avalanche they make fresh ravioli al nero di seppia (squid ink pasta stuffed with crab and sea bass) and it tastes exquisite. For secondo, try their stinco di agnello (slow cooked lamb shank) or the vitello saltimbocca (veal chop with sage and Parma ham). You’ll be surprised by the generous portions and the freshness of the ingredients. An ideal place to go with family or large groups of friends, you won’t feel rushed out of the door and will have plenty of time between courses and for coffees and digestive at the end of the meal in pure Italian style.
Every Sunday the offer is 50% discount on the food bill, all day so it’s the ideal place to spend a fabulous big Italian Sunday lunch with family and friends, sitting for hours enjoying course after course, and end the afternoon with a little passeggiata around the city centre. Check out also their lunch menu offers during the week.
2 Booth St, Manchester M2 4AT
4. Salvi’s Cucina
The staff are friendly with an eye for detail and service and the atmosphere relaxed. I have tried most things on their menu and recommend the arancini, the melanzane alla parmigiana (grilled aubergine, mozzarella di bufala and tomato sauce) and don’t miss their specialty, the assortment of three different types of freshly imported buffalo mozzarella. I have found myself begging the staff for a table on a number of occasions, and they always remind me that I should have booked in advance. Perfect pre- or post- theatre or cinema or try the rosticceria (deli) next door, the Italian version of a take away. Ideal for take away food but also for a quick bite, extra yummy and fresh any time of day.
Buffalo mozzarella is venerated almost religiously in most parts of Italy. In northern Italy there are cheese shops which receive large amounts of fresh mozzarella di bufala from southern Italy on a specific day and it is often sold out in an hour. You can’t fake it. It is either really fresh and excellent or not good at all. You’ll see the milk running out of the mozzarella when you cut it, melting in your mouth like butter, as we say. I promise, at Salvi’s you’ll get the real thing!
19 John Dalton Street, Manchester M2 6FW
I’ll tell you a little secret. Italians like food but they love drinking even more! Rosso has a reputation as a fancy, celebrity spotting venue with a modern, larger than life image. I love Rosso because they make the best negroni cocktail in town! Try also the Italian spritz punch and you’ll feel like you’re in one of those 1950’s pictures. Don’t get fooled by the dress code thing, they recognise real foodies and fine drinkers (not posers!) when they see one, I’ve always had the best service, even when I’ve walked in with my hair squashed by my crash helmet and layers of jumpers! Try also the Italian spritz punch. From the food menu, try the gnocchi con funghi selvatici or the polenta. The entire menu consists of real nutritious and healthy Italian food, which must be one of the reasons why a lot of sportsmen are often spotted there.
There is nothing sexier than an afternoon date at Rosso. Sitting at the bar, drinking a couple of negronis and espressos, chatting away the day in this beautiful venue. It may be expensive, but it’s worth every penny.
43 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BG
This is a wine bar that offers spuntini, appetizers, panini, piadine and you can really make a meal out of it. I have been going to Veeno since the night they opened when they called in the Italian community for a first taste. We all left feeling that finally we had a proper Italian venue in town! At Veeno it’s all about the quality of the wine, the reasonable prices, and the generous portions of their taglieri della casa (house platters filled with the best Italian cheeses and meats). On Wednesdays enjoy the real apericena – a glass of wine and fill your plate with meat and cheeses exactly as we do in Italy. Don’t forget to try their truffle salami – your life won’t be the same again!
I adore sitting outside during the summer. The location makes it easy to park my Vespa outside and sit sipping a glass of prosecco. Always filled with Italian punters and a perfect place for people watching. At Veeno you can really pretend you’re in Italy for a couple of hours!
14 Brazennose Street, Manchester M2 6LW
7. Double Zero
Very similar to any pizzeria in Italy where ordering a pizza is very similar to ordering a pint in England – quick, traditional, and a reassuring treat after work. I love Double Zero because the pizza is real size, cooked in a wood fire oven, with fresh ingredients and an amazing tomato sauce. Add friendly service and BYO wine or beer and it’s a recipe for happiness. The décor is simple and modern, they use a lot of recycled materials and there are cute pots of basil on the tables. You get the picture. Try the mozzarella di bufala in your pizza, add an antipasto or selection of meats.
Ask for a pizza with mozzarella di bufala, rocket, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto and scaglie of parmesan – one of the most traditional and tastiest pizzas but rarely on the menus in any pizza restaurant in the UK. Italians invented the cappuccino but when we order a coffee in Italy we don’t do any of the “double shot, skinny, chocolate pumpkin cappuccino” nonsense. We do, however, make a lot of nonsense requests when ordering a pizza. So be creative and ask for your personal combination of ingredients. You’ll love it!
368 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester M21 8AZ
I must confess that it took me a few years to get to Gusto. What a mistake I made! The service is professional, the food outstanding, the prices reasonable. I have dined and lunched here a few times there and always left very happy. Their ravioli of butternut squash is unmissable (roasted red peppers, sun dried tomato and toasted almonds). For dessert, try the bombolini (homemade mini doughnuts, chantilly cream and chocolate sauce) and white chocolate and forest fruit pizza with mascarpone and mint. So good, I thought about sending the dessert chef a thank you card the first time I tried it! They are unbelievably delicious.
They do pizza with salami soppressa, which is a particular kind of salami which comes from the Veneto region of Italy. This kind of salami is very difficult to copy and it is D.O.P which is a sort of certificate proving that it is original. Needless to say, it is unique and really, really tasty!
756 Wilmslow Rd (arguably Deansgate), Manchester M20 2DW
Tiny, independent,family run Italian restaurant in the heart of West Didsbury near the local bars. Azzurro’s speciality is seafood. I recommend their mussels and linguine, you won’t be disappointed, but always check their board for the specials of the day or, even better, ask the staff what is fresh that day. The service can be slow sometimes, but is worth the wait.
For an island nation you guys don’t seem to appreciate the fantastic access to the freshest seafood you have. You wouldn’t believe the amount of UK fish & seafood exported to Italy! Of course we Italians have a very special relationship with food “out of the blue” and at Azzurro a real treat awaits.
242 Burton Rd, Manchester M20 2LW
What would be your ten?