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Don Giovannis Review

Jonathan Schofield re-visits Don Giovannis: but is it an YAFI?

Written by . Published on October 29th 2010.

Don Giovannis Review

Seventeen thousand years ago when I was doing food reviews for the Chadderton Evening News I went to a recently relocated Don Giovannis and thought it ok going on dull. I considered it, during an emotionally charged meal, a drifting nothingness, a blandishment of drab.

The waiter turned out to be the most intelligent man in Manchester. Dave and I were discussing how cities grow and change and we couldn’t remember the name for the Parisian suburbs where the French shove all their poor immigrant groups. “Banlieue,” said the lad while pouring us wine.

Last year Gordo on these pages roughly defined this category of place as a YAFI,‘Yet Another Fucking Italian’. His definition went along the lines of: ‘A tired approximation of what is really Italian, for people who think this food is an ‘all right bit of foreign’.’

Not that you can actually blame YAFIs. They’re a compromise between restaurants with low aspirations and diners with low food expectations.

The establishment seems to be saying, “We’re all right, we’re ok, nothing special but comfortable enough”, and the diners say, “Yeah, you’re all right, you’re ok, nothing special but comfortable enough”, and the restaurant says, “What did you think of the meal?” and the diners say, “It was nice that lasagne”, and the restaurant says, “Can we have £60 from the two of you?” and the diners say, “that would be fine”, and the restaurant says, “Actually here are some desserts we bought in from a freezer company, so what about £75 and a nice tip because we were pretty nifty with those big pepper pots weren’t we?" and the diners say, “Go on then”, and everyone’s happy.

It’s a cosy little relationship. It’s about not expecting too much and not delivering too much. It’s normality, especially in Northern Europe. Critics of course expect too much. They want meals to surprise them, or at least to be competently cooked.

Which isn’t going to happen all the time. Or even much of the time.

So dining again at Don Giovannis with Dave Carter, the affable don of Manchester Digital Development Agency, I was expecting more of the usual tat from a YAFI.

We had starters of mozzarella fritti with sweet chilli sauce (£4.95) and calamari fritti (£4.95). Mains were shinko agnello (£14.95), slow cooked lamb with a sauce of tomato, shallots and red wine, and risotto al funghi (£8.50).

A side of pesto mash (£3.95) was sampled too. This was awful, a bastardised abomination of a Frankenstein dish, perverse with lumpy mash and with pesto coating it like a poisonous moss.

But that was the only really sour note.

My mozzarella fritti in breadcrumbs felt freshly made and a good size: it worked well with the chilli sauce. Dave’s calamari looked too pale to me but he complimented them: “they actually taste squidy,” he said, “so often these things are just pure rubber.” Dave’s a natural enthusiast, but I’ll take his word on this.

The lamb was a delight, a fall off the bone, slow cooked winter treat for a cold day, only marginally tainted by too many shallots in the slightly too heavy sauce. A side (included in the price) of cauliflower, carrots and so on, was good in a 1977 kind of way.

Captain Carter’s main was one of the best risottos he’d tasted in the city, “with a distinct taste of mushroom and proper depth of flavour.”

Desserts of raspberry sorbet (£5.95) and pannacotta (£5.95) were fine too. Dave’s looked better than mine, “it was great to have so much juicy fruit with it,” he said. “Are these made here, or did you buy them in Iceland?” I’d asked the waiter before ordering the desserts. He'd assured us they were homemade. Ummm....fair enough.

The waiter turned out to be the most intelligent man in Manchester. Dave and I were discussing how cities grow and change and we couldn’t remember the name for the Parisian suburbs where the French shove all their poor immigrant groups. “Banlieue,” said the lad while pouring us wine.

He was French, studying in Manchester. Between courses the three of us chatted about the contrast between French and British culture, the philosophy of religion, dogma, L'Académie française and politics. Great fella.

A bottle of £29.90 Nobile di Montepulciano was a thick, unsubtle clumsy red, presented too cold. Yet despite such failings, after the meal I felt I needed to move Don Giovannis out of the YAFI category to somewhere 'worth visiting if passing'. The range of food on offer is still very much YAFI, stuck in some frigid time warp from thirty years ago, but it’s generally cooked to a very decent standard.

There are some things the place needs to address urgently. For instance the menus are filthy and stained, looking like they’ve been taken on a trip to the gutter outside and left there during a flash flood. But if I have to go back it won't be too much of a bother, especially if I need to debate some point of philosophy and politics and I can see our brainy waiter through the window.

Breakdown:6.5/10 food
2.5/5 ambience
4/5 service
Address:Don Giovannis
11 Oxford Street
Manchester M1 4PB
0161 228 2482

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JayOctober 28th 2010.

I must say that Don Giovanni's has improved massively over the years. I much prefer this place to getting served by surly waiters and being over charged for the privilege at San Carlo.

NortherngeezerOctober 28th 2010.

C'mon Jay, nobody actually gets 'served' in San Carlo now do they, its a privilige just to be allowed through the door surely!

BowksOctober 28th 2010.

Ah yet again, the San Carlo PR machine at work again in reader's rants. Is there ever a restaurant review on ManCon where some halfwit doesn't mention Manchester's favourite Marmite restaurant.

TediousOctober 28th 2010.

Bowks you're so right. Northern Geezer...zzzzzz

JayOctober 28th 2010.

Bowks, surely the rant about SC is relevant to this review as it's often heralded on Man Con as being the standard for the YAFI's to aspire to

Brian CarrOctober 28th 2010.

This is undoubtedly the best and fairest restaurant review I have ever read. It was completely in agreement with my experience of YAFIS and in particular Don Giovannis.

BowksOctober 28th 2010.

Jay, don't take it as a personal insult. This was not my intention. I'm sure the comparison was with best intentions but surely there are (seemily 100's) of other YAFI's across town that you could have compared DG to rather than jump on the SC love/hate bandwagon. Back to the article however, it's good to see that a venue which was once significantly substandard is trying to get it's act together.

NortherngeezerOctober 29th 2010.

I understand the point you are trying to make Bowks and i think your right, the YAFI world dont revolve around what one particular restaurant does, however good the folks at Mancon think it is or how shyte the rest of us find it.
Jay - slapped wrist for even comparing it.

Stuart BamberOctober 29th 2010.

I abandoned my diet yesterday and got a meatball panini from the one opposite Grado on York(?) Street. Absolute class.

Their breakfasts are amongst the best in Manc.

However their restaurant isn't *quite* up to the same standards as their delis.

JayOctober 29th 2010.

I consider my wrists well and truly slapped.

spooky1971March 5th 2012.

extremely disappointing and expensively disappointing at that. Meal with bottle of wine £77.80 My partner and I have been to this restaurant a few times over the last couple of years and had always found it to be a good and interesting menu and, serving good quality food. Not anymore. If you like steak and chips and you're prepared to pay £19.95 for it you'll be fine. Friday 2nd March 2012 we ordered veal with wild mushrooms. The veal was tasteless and dry and not a wild mushroom in sight!! They thought an idiot customer like me would not spot the difference if they smothered the veal in button mushrooms. That wouldn't affect the taste of the dish at all would it guys. Hmmm???? They drowned it in sauce and, not even a good sauce at that, to try to cover up shortcomings of the meal. The same with my partners main course, it needed a life vest to get out the lack lustre sauce that it was drowning in too. To make matters worse our side of roasted rosemary potatoes came and it was obviously fried definitely not roasted, baby potato halves with the smallest scattering of dried rosemary. We spoke with the manager who didn't seem too mortified at the lack of quality his kitchen had produced and said that he would reduce our meal by 10%. We explained we didn't want the 10% reduction just a good meal. If you say on the menu a dish has wild mushrooms then that's why you pick the dish surely and that's what you expect? But I suppose Button mushrooms from Tesco which have no flavour are cheaper at about £0.90p ish and rosemary from a jar is what, about £2.00 these days? Our mains were £15.95 and £19.95 and they expect you to be happy paying this price which is on a level which much much better quality restaurants in Manchester which, is just not on. My advice, go to the shops and buy yourself a pack of button mushrooms and a jar of dried rosemary. You'll save a packet and probably have a better meal.

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