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Piccolino Reviewed: Gordo Speaks

Yorkshire Pudding in an Italian and Gordo likes it? Has he gone mad?

Published on August 3rd 2011.

Piccolino Reviewed: Gordo Speaks

Piccolino? Yet Another Fucking Italian?

The term YAFI may well be a term recognised by Gordo’s readers. It stands for Yet Another Fucking Italian. Here in the North West of England we are inundated with them.

Some very good, three great and the rest utterly banal throw backs to the seventies and the Mario and Franco chain. These were terrific in their time – the surprise of pork spare ribs in a sticky glaze, and, what the hell is this, weird little fishes called anchovies on breaded veal with a fried egg? 

The beauty of this place is the leadership of Ettore; there are probably in excess of twenty Piccolinos across the country, but this feller looks after the place as if it is his own.

Francesco, at one of the three aforementioned best, Cicchetti in Manchester, groans every time Gordo crosses the doorstep as he is going to be asked to cook that veal one again; it’s not on the menu. But he does the best Gordo has ever had.

This dish is one of the simplest in the Italian regime and one of the best. But only when it is done with finesse and love. And good butter. Which is why 90% plus of Italian restaurants in the area are shockingly poor. The owners and staff really don’t give a damn about what they are serving. And you, dear reader, are their legitimate prey.

Great Italian food is about two things; the quality of the ingredients and the simplicity of cooking. A recent visit to The Hideaway underneath Chris Johnson’s celebrated Ramsons restaurant in Ramsbottom has unearthed one of the three great Italian restaurants with food that sticks to this lesson, a review will soon follow. Lou, the chef, an ex page three model who cooks with her heart and the thoroughly mental Chris’s ingredients, turned out a meal of such fabulous quality recently Gordo could have kicked himself for taking nearly two years to try it out.

Francesco at Cicchetti and his gaffer, Marcello, follow the same rules; these guys are buying most of their stuff in the Milan markets and it shows, while the sister restaurant, San Carlo, across the street, benefits from those same ingredients but concentrates on being Marilyn Monroe to Cicchetti’s Audrey Hepburn.

There is one other that Gordo will allow you to go to.  This was a restaurant born over eleven years ago, designed by an Englishman. Unusually, Gordo decided that his Sunday lunch was going to be Italian, in this particular restaurant; one that doubles as his local.

The big one had been intrigued by an 'A' board advertising roast beef, chicken and pork. The man who has made this restaurant his own, having carved it out of the group that is known as the Restaurant Bar and Grill, is one of the best of his ilk in the North West.

Roast BeefRoast Beef

Ettore Cicchetti is his name and the restaurant is Piccolinos. Gordo hasn’t eaten there for a year or so. Ettore was shrugging his shoulders at Gordo when he was taking the mickey out of him for putting on such an Anglo-Saxon show of a Sunday.

“Eh, Gordo, the Italians like a roast too you know,” says the most charming host in town. Then, with a wink, “And I have put Yorkshire puddings on as well.”

Fatty had to book a table just to be able to use the experience for a massive rant he was planning against the YAFI’s and for the love of his life, real French cooking. So, at one thirty a couple of Sundays ago, down he sat in Piccolinos just off Albert Square. Let the fat one tell you, he knows the service is going to be marked at 5/5 before he steps through the door. It just is. Ettore’s front of house are drilled to a point past that cloying “Is everything OK, sir?” over service, normally asked five times and each one as you put a piece of chicken in your mouth. In Ettore’s hands it’s relaxed perfection.

Gordo is joined by his daughter, who has not, it needs to be said, picked up any skills whatsoever from her grandparents. She came home once with a lasagne, aged nine, from a school so snotty that Gordo nearly went to a carpentry class with single intention of building a guillotine.

Gordo had to eat the bastard in its entirety under threat of death from her Mother, the Mad One. If anyone needs to know what the pain is like from a strangulated hernia, ask him, he was pleading for an ambulance at four in the morning.

Harry, Gordo’s side-kick, aged seven, was also in attendance. Something of a budding cook it needs to be said, he must have his grandad’s genes, he helped make a pretty good Osso Buco a few weeks ago.

Enough with the filler, let’s get to the food. Melanzane alla parmigiana, Neopolitan baked aubergine and buffalo mozzarella with tomato, parmesan and basil (£7.50) was good; nice and sticky, purply brown and deep, deep flavour. James (the exec chef over the group) has got this recipe right and the Manchester team are doing him proud.

Bruschetta con pomodoro. Classic tomato, garlic and basil, toasted Tuscan bread (£5.25) ordered by Harry was refreshing and elegant on top with a glug of olive oil and plenty of garlic mixed in the tomatoes all on top of  crispy charcoal grilled bread. A note on that bread; its bloody excellent stuff.

Harry’s mum’s grilled asparagus with a poached egg on top was as good as ever, although Fatty for one thinks that the dish has been on the RBG circuit a bit too long, maybe bring that out for the English asparagus season and let it rest once the season is over; it will save the air miles. Peru is a  long way off.

Then the main deal.

Roast pork (rolled loin) for Gordo, beef (sirloin) for Georgina. (£13.95) They were served immaculately in iron skillets, gravy on the side, the pork with roasted garlic cloves, seasoned with the classic Italian herbs. Yes, and roast potatoes and those Yorkshire puddings.

“Eh, Gordo, we may have plenty of green beans and spinach left on the plates, but never the Yorkshire puddings,” said Ettore as he filled his glass with an excellent Sardinian red, Castanzu Cannonau, aka Grenache grape, if Gordo is not mistaken. At £22.95 it’s a bit heavy, £19.95 would be a fairer mark up but thoroughly enjoyable. Drink with food, mind you.

Georgina moaned that the beef was a bit well done for her, then admitted to no-one in particular that she hadn’t given her usual instructions to pull the beasts horns off and wipe its arse. Mind you the waiter forgot to ask. That’s .25 knocked off that perfect score I am afraid. Apart from that glitch, the meats had been roasted in the Tuscan farmhouse tradition, bursting with flavour whilst the accompanying Yorkshire puddings and gravies were cheeky and really enjoyable. As were the roast potatoes. Take a look at the pictures, they tell the story.

A late arriving guest had pollo funghi. Roast chicken, gnocchi, mushrooms and garlic cream (£15.95). By the gods it looked good and was paid the compliment of being described as ‘surprisingly brilliant’ by a man who knows his onions.


Harry’s  frutti di mare, king prawns, mussels, squid and saffron (£7.50) was a touch bland for Gordo, and not enough squid by all accounts for the pint sized critic.

One portion of cheese was enough for all of us. Artisan Italian cheese selection, toasted Tuscan bread, caramelised red onion & balsamic chutney (£7.25) was excellent, but let it warm up a bit.

Finally, Tiramisù. Sponge fingers, mascarpone, marsala and coffee liqueur (£6.25), which, by all accounts had been made an hour earlier, was a fluffy delight; let’s get a bit more of that coffee liqueur into it though.



The beauty of this place is the leadership of Ettore; there are probably in excess of twenty Piccolinos across the country, but this feller looks after the place as if it is his own. He takes a pride in it that you just normally don’t see. You can see him many a time polishing glasses at nine in the morning with his green apron on; you just don’t see things like that with others.

Another thing to note is how absolutely fantastic these people are with children.

Yes, Gordo is going to be slating those YAFI’s soon. But Ettore’s Piccolinos ain’t going to be one of them. Come to think of it, this restaurant is head and shoulders above the rest in the group. Let’s rename it Ettore’s.

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @gordomanchester

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

8 Clarence Street, City Centre, M2 4DW, 0161 835 9860

Rating: 15.75/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 4.75/5
Ambience: 4/5

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

AnonymousAugust 4th 2011.

Never, ever had any of the Piccolinos able to cook meat as ordered. Shame because the food other than that is normally very good.

Gary GraysonAugust 4th 2011.

Why the need for all the profanity.... A simple and concise report is all thats required

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 4th 2011.

Have you not read Gordo before? He's a bit Anglo-Saxon...

Lauren LewisAugust 4th 2011.

They officially do the nicest Garlic Bread EVER and Ettore is the best front of house manager - whatever the cuisine Ive ever met! Rename it Ettore's INDEED! He is certainly one of the reasons I make repeat visits. And the Garlic Bread of course ;)

MCAugust 4th 2011.

Gordo - Tiramisu is made with AMARETTO liquer mixed with strong coffee. Also you should try COCOS in Altrincham - Jane is great front of house, the food is good, staff very helpful and the bills not too expensive. Don't know why I'm telling you about this - as I don't want it to be mobbed.

GordoAugust 4th 2011.

Blimey. It's a bit like the Lancashire Hot Pot debate this...

Jennifer MorrisAugust 5th 2011.

Gordo - have you tried Leo's on Monton Road? Had the best tiramisu I've had in AGES there - though that could be something to do with the vat of wine consumed. Bustling little place with an eclectic bunch of customers - would like to know what you think if you ever try it out!

Georgia WilsonAugust 5th 2011.

We go to Piccolinos in West Didsbury as it's our local, and it is A-mazing!! Took my boyfriend there last night for his 30th and he had a fab night! The bill was just under £130 and that was 3 courses each, 2 sides, garlic bread, 2bottles wine and 8 cocktails!! They totally spoilt him all night and we had a lovely table-romantic but still part of the buzzy atmosphere. The GM is so friendly and always pops over for a chat and to make sure everything is perfect for you and nothing is too much trouble. It's definately one of our favourites - the other being Francesca's in Jesmond, Newcastle as I'm from there originally-Without a doubt the best Italian's we've ever been to....I've been going since school!! Highly recommend it if anyone is ever in The Toon, but while I'm here, West Didsbury Piccolinos will do me just fine!

SueAugust 5th 2011.

my visits to Piccolinos can all be described as 'average', nothing to complain about yet nothing to rave about either - maybe some people are easily pleased!

AnonymousAugust 5th 2011.

Having dined in various Piccolinos, from Hale to Harrogate, London to Manchester it's clear to me that the owners invest heavily in premier staff training and development. This means that the combination of food and service remains a constant throughout the restaurant group. Such a shame then, in my opinion, that Manchester Confidential doesn't have the same commitment to staff training as Piccolinos. If it did, perhaps Gordo would learn how to use a far better choice of words from the quarter of a million plus words available out there when publishing his reviews. Such profanity as he's printed and posted on site is neither acceptable to me as a reader, nor is it 'clever'. Think again Manchester Confidential what you agree to publsh in the guise of an 'acceptable' review.

Maggie MilnerAugust 5th 2011.

Gordo - carry on just as you are with your reviews - this is Mancon - not the Parish Magazine!!

J WilsonAugust 6th 2011.

Clearly people haven't read Gordo before. He's a breath of fresh air compared to most writers up here won't say boo to a goose. Compare his writing here with the MEN's southern 11 review on Friday. Carry on offending and informing Gordo.

NiBsAugust 8th 2011.

The Hideaway under Ramsons is superb. Went a couple of months back - the simple Italian food is a revelation and inexpensive. Lou is a stunner ... her husband serves the food!
Will give Piccolino's on Albert Sq another try on Mark's recommendation.
A little fruity language can be amusing too much spoils. Out of the 17 previous comments 5 or 6 think you've overdone it Mark.

the Whalley RangerDecember 9th 2011.

Don't disagree with this review. Don't mind the underlying tone in the author's literary voice.

HowieDecember 11th 2011.

That took a while to d

HowieDecember 11th 2011.

That took a while to digest, Whalley Ranger!

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