Take a random sample of people and it’s more than likely that 99% of them will enjoy Italian food. There’s no shortage of restaurants offering an ‘authentic’ taste of this gastronomic giant, but I’ve never been convinced.
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“There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Manchester. The majority of them tend to be chain restaurants which, in my opinion, offer very similar menus,” says Paolo Gaudino, one of the four owners of Shudehill restaurant, The Pasta Factory.
“For example, most of these restaurants offer lasagne, pasta carbonara, pizza, risotto, tiramisu and so on. Many of them also serve dishes like fettuccine Alfredo and pasta with chicken, which do not actually exist in Italy.”
Paolo and his co-owners grew up and went to school together in Turin before moving to Manchester five years ago, working in the cities bars and restaurants. They opened The Pasta Factory six months ago.
“Our philosophy is to focus on one thing and deliver it to the best of our abilities. Instead of trying to do a little bit of everything we wanted to do one thing – fresh pasta – that has to be the best pasta in town.”
The first noticeable difference when you walk in is the deli section stocked with freshly made pasta and sauces – something which is the norm in Italy, but unfortunately a luxury here in the UK.
As you peruse the menu you can’t help but notice how refreshingly short it is – very few restaurants can claim to excel at pizza, pasta, fish and steak. It’s a serious pet hate of mine.
You won’t find lasagne and carbonara, but rather Reginette al Barbera con ragù di cervo and ravioli di prosciutto alla toma di Lanzo – traditional family recipes that even the Italian community in Manchester are tasting for the first time.
Pasta Factory has one great advantage in terms of customer service; their employees are friends and love the food they serve.
We order a starter to share and give our waiter a few guidelines. He comes back with a platter of salami, dehydrated kale, tuna, lemon and basil feta, sun-dried tomatoes with pesto, parma ham and delicious homemade crackers, all served on wafer thin Sardinian bread known as ‘music paper’.
The menu is updated regularly, depending on produce and what the chefs want to cook. I’m very lucky today. They’ve just taken a rare order of buffalo ricotta which I order in a basil flavoured ravioli dish served in a rich tomato sauce. I also try the ravioli with smoked ham served in a rich tomato sauce. The flavours are bold, balanced and the pasta is cooked to perfection.
Having put so much attention into the food it would be a shame if the drinks were an afterthought. Unsurprisingly, they are anything but.
I start with a San Paolo IPA, imported from Turin and was immediately hit by how crisp, citrusy and light it was despite its dark, unfiltered appearance. The chardonnay was also a delight – fruity, dry and crisp.
The enthusiasm coupled with the quality of the raw ingredients means the meal is nothing but a triumph. We finish with espresso and a smorgasbord of Italian sweets, sadly too stuffed for a helping of tiramisu.
It’s easy to see why The Pasta Factory is getting nothing but glowing reviews. This is a true taste of rustic, Italian cooking, and you’d be doing a disservice to yourself if you didn’t visit and let them shower you with exceptional food and drink.
77 Shudehill, M4 4AN