Carmen Andre and Claudio Morales moved to England from Italy five years ago. Earlier this year, they took over what used to be Williams Sandwich Bar on Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter – a stone’s throw from the area known as Little Italy where immigrants settled from the 19th century.
They’ve renamed it William Sicilian Street Food, and it’s open early in the morning for all your breakfast favourites – full English, butties and barms (some with an Italian twist) – as well as some top Italian espresso.
The rest of the day, they serve homemade Sicilian street food and sweets (and the coffee).
In the evening, it’s a cosy dining destination with a candlelit atmosphere and the cactus symbol of Sicily on the tables.
Carmen and Claudio moved to Manchester for business – but surprisingly, cooking isn’t what they started out doing. Carmen is an engineer and owner of Dirextra Construction Business School, whilst Claudio is an actor and model.
But what they share is a passion for authentic Sicilian food and a desire to bring it to this city.
“When we moved to England we noticed the complete absence of Sicilian food in Manchester,” says Carmen. “We also noticed the fact that a lot of restaurants adapt Italian recipes to English tastes instead.
“People know pasta and pizza and nothing more. But there is a world behind Italian and Sicilian Food.
“We miss our land so we decided to create something original and homemade, selling the product like it is in Sicily without changing the taste. I think people will love the amazing food of my island.”
On the menu you will find proper Sicilian food as well as Italian classics. Make note of the difference though, as Carmen is determined to emphasize the uniqueness of Sicilian food and the special chance to try it here in Manchester.
“Our street food comes directly from Sicily by plane so both ingredients and recipes are authentic. This is the only way to have it delicious like at home,” she adds.
“My favourite – I’m from Catania – is the famous cipollina catanese – a puff pastry with tomato, onions, ham and cheese. Delicious. I also like all the flavours of arancini (deep-fried rice balls). My favourite is Norma with aubergine, tomato sauce, ricotta salata and mozzarella.”
The balls are in your court at lunchtime with a number of different types of arancini available, as well as a massive range of Sicilian street food including pate’ (stuffed puff pastry), cartocciata (soft dough with filling), and cipollina (pastry parcels).
It’s not just savouries either. As well as daily specials, the dessert section of the menu includes bombolone cioccolato (the ultimate chocolate doughnut) and raviola – a sweet sort of ravioli made from fried dough filled with sweet ricotta and covered in sugar.
And you can get your Italian ice cream fix, too.
“In Sicily we are the best in terms of sweets,” says Carmen. “I can die for a bombolone with chocolate or a pistachio cannoli (they’re both on the menu). We serve also Sicilian gelato inside a cannolo or in a cup.”
But why the English breakfast combination?
“First of all we love traditions. Second, we love English breakfast”, says Carmen. “We were born and grew up in south Italy in Sicily and Naples, two of the best places in the world in terms of food.
“Eating delicious food is in our DNA and to tell the truth, we both have eaten English breakfasts in mornings for a long time before moving to England. We got this habit during several trips abroad in international hotels.
“I often order English breakfast for lunch, I am such a big fan. So no reason to take it off the menu!”
When they’re not eating their delicious homemade Sicilian food, which are their favourite places to eat in Manchester?
“I’ve tried and love so many restaurants in Manchester,” says Carmen. Amongst my favourites are the Indian Asha’s, Spanish Iberica, and I also like Tapeo.
“Plus when I don’t go in Italy for several months, I need to eat Italian food more than anything else. That’s when I start to go often to places like San Carlo, Bottega, Fumo, Don Giovanni and Salvi’s.”
William is pet-friendly and a place Carmen describes with real affection when it comes to their plans for the future.
“I hope to bring up very well my little creature William – and hope people will love my place. We are investing a lot of passion and love in William!”
So why not give William a try? It’s really something.
45 Hilton Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M1 2EF