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Piccolinos: There’s more than one

Piccolinos group marches onwards and upwards. Everybody’s favourite Maitre d’, Ettore of Piccolinos Manchester, has always had tough competition from Mauritzo, the previous gaffer who has opened Liverpool and now, Bramhall Piccolinos. Who is doing best?

Published on October 19th 2006.

Piccolinos: There’s more than one

Ask any restaurant which is the part of the business it would like to improve upon, they will invariably answer, more lunchtime trade. Then the conversation moves on to Piccolinos off Albert Square; ‘how do they do it’? Even Gordo gets baffled, but it’s a combination of things. James Gingell, the man who helped build this formidable group of restaurants has an attention to detail that could have run the Manhattan Project and would have delivered the bomb six months earlier probably. He certainly delivers more covers from midday to midnight than any other restaurant in Manchester. James’ gaffer, Ian Donald has been a pal of Gordo’s from his days as exec chef at Stanneylands in Wilmslow when, under owner Gordon Beech, they were aspiring to a Michelin rosette.

These guys do something that Rupert Murdoch used to tell Gordo to do, otherwise some pretty dire things were going to happen to him. That is, “cut the mustard, son.” Gordo made bloody sure he did, that’s why Sky TV is still here. Ian, James and their well oiled machine do the same.

Piccolinos in Bramhall has been on the cards for a review for a while, Gordo needed a good excuse to trip into the suburbs to see if this outpost was upholding the traditions of Ettore’s Piccolinos off Albert Square. The excuse came in the form of Helen of Bramhall, aka Helen Lewis, owner of beauty parlour Loved. As well as launching a thousand ships, she can’t half wear a pair of jeans.

Piccolinos in Bramhall is a larger, lighter affair than the one here in Manchester, bigger bar, an outside area cleverly dressed with awnings and heaters that allow people to eat out there nearly all year around, as well as letting smokers concentrate on killing themselves. Familiar staff greet you as ever they did; you are their most important customer, and that greeting comes with a big smile.

Gordo was looking forward to seeing his old pal Maurizio, the Manager, who went to open Liverpool and then Bramhall. It was however his night off, but the service is still great. This is reason number one guys, why this group are always busy.

Number two is the menu. It’s tried and tested faux Italian that everyone can look through and find something that interests them, Including vegetarians. There are in fact fifteen dishes that can easily be mixed and matched into a good meal. The menu works cleverly in that at lunchtime you can be in and out in well under an hour.

Reason number three, if your clients want a long boozy lunch, let them. If they are looking like they need to be in and out, do it. Gordo can, and does pop into Piccolinos at five thirty for a quick half hour supper of Antipasti and Carne, sat next to the kitchen reading the papers with a bit of piece and quiet. He has also been known to sit down for lunch at one o’clock and walk out at eight in the evening. But that’s his choice.

The menu is sprinkled with jewels like Crostini con Fegato, £5.75, sautéed chicken livers invariably delivered pink and juicy, snuggling up to hot grapes bathed in a marsala wine sauce, all gently laid across a bed made of crisp yet lightly fried bread and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. Hmm. I can see Piccolinos from my balcony, should I nip down…?

The pizzas can compete against the masters across the road, Croma, perfect for the kids. Troffiette al Pollo e Asparagi, £8.95, is Gordo’s favourite pasta dish. Helen had a great looking fish of the day, sea bream, on the Bramhall night; Gordo had the Branzino Siciliano, £15.50, Baked Sea Bass, crisp skin and juicy flesh draped in finally chopped tomato, garlic, olives and capers, all puckered up with a generous squeeze of lemon.

This is not fine dining, nor is it absolutely pukka Italian; what it is, is brilliantly consistent and satisfying for eight to eighty year olds. Pre theatre suppers, bank manager greasing sessions, sons and daughters graduating, Barry the billionaires at the bar growing their noses telling everyone how much they are supposedly worth. Gordo and Howard telling each other lies for a couple of hours. Paul the Plumber going skint then battling his way back. Dianne and Kim with baby, pram and pink champagne. Egalitarianism is the order of the day.

Dolci, by the way; good, but the Tiramisu is unctuously gorgeous. £4.75.

Service in Bramhall is not quite as slick as Manchester, when you have your back to the room you are in danger of slipping a disc when trying get the waiters attention at times, but, readers, this place is wired. A different clientele from the young and not so young urbanites in Manchester, it has quickly gained a loyal following and is rumoured to be the highest grossing per square foot restaurant in the country.

Well, the trip to Bramhall was hugely satisfying, and not just because of Helens remarkable behind. Gordo will happily return. For Piccolinos as well.

Piccolinos Manchester: 15.25/20
Tel number. 0161 835 9860

Piccolinos Bramhall: 15/20
Tel Number. 0161 439 8298

Great scores for Brasseries guys, both Gordo Goes.

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