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Puccini’s review

Ruth Allan finds the funniest named dish in all of Christendom

Published on October 6th 2010.

Puccini’s review

Some of my happiest memories lie down Italian alleys, sampling pasta and fish dishes whose names lie buried deep beneath bottles of Brunello and Chianti.

Arthur fared best, perhaps, with a dish invented by Manchester United team captain, Gary Neville called (wait for it….)‘Penne alla Neville’. I love the thought of Neville browsing the menu before ordering, ‘the Neville, please’.

Mmmm….but before I drift too far down memory lane, let’s get one thing straight; Swinton’s premier Italian restaurant is definitely more Brit-Trattoria than Tuscan gem.

Ten minutes drive from Manchester city centre, Puccini’s Italian is housed in a Brutalist concrete shopping centre in the heart of the suburbs. Nope, it’s not gorgeous (grey concrete against a grey sky anyone?) but the restaurant does radiate the confidence of 28 years in the business. And Puccini’s has something else up its sleeve too: the fact that it's the premier league football star’s restaurant of choice.

Snapped arm in arm with grinning waiters, photographs of Beckham, Ferguson, Giggs and Neville are plastered all over the pillars inside. There are signed United shirts, pastel drawings and scarves draped over doors and huge portraits of famous footie stars piled up against the walls.

The overall effect is indeed bizarre, but despite the pictures and the accolades, Puccini’s charm lies in its simplicity. Straightforward pasta dishes, pizza, fish and meat dishes are the order of the day here – and the impeccably polished Italian staff were very much in evidence too, when myself, my son Arthur (6) and his dad Mark dropped in for lunch last Saturday.

Having gawped for rather too long at the memorabilia on display, we started our meal with garlic bread and a bowl of Stracciatella Alla Romana soup. The bread was nothing short of sublime – just crisp enough, not over done and topped with spanking fresh tomatoes and herbs. My soup on the other hand, looked more like sick, which tickled the boys no end.

Cue comments such as ‘hahahh… you’ve ordered a bowl of sick’, etc. It made up for its looks on the palate, though, with lashings of melted parmesan, spinach, garlic egg and freshly chopped tomato combined in a thin, light stock. A fine example of this classic, egg-drop soup, I thought, and Mark enjoyed his well-timed starter of scallops too.

Served with a tangy butter sauce, infused with lemon, orange - or possibly both - the scallops, soup and garlic bread were all promising tasters of what Puccini’s had in store.

A few years back, on a family holiday in Pisa, we sampled the delights of several local restaurants down tiny back alleys, coming to the conclusion that eating Italian makes one both fatter and more tolerant of herbs. Of course over there, chefs use fresh oregano, basil and so on in greater quantities than their British counterparts to give dishes the flavour of the land - and this ‘herbing up’ was apparent in our main courses at Puccinis.

Sage, for example, was employed to sinus-clearing effect in Mark’s veal medallions with Parma ham (Saltimbocca alla Romana), while my sole in parsley sauce was perfectly balanced; chewy-tasty and with a buttery tang. Annoyingly, it was overdone; the soggy fish giving little or no resistance to my knife.

Arthur fared best, perhaps, with a dish invented by Manchester United team captain, Gary Neville called (wait for it….) ‘Penne alla Neville’. Cream, chicken and mushroom were the building blocks of this kid-friendly combination and I love the thought of Neville browsing the menu before ordering, ‘the Neville, please’.

(Ruth I had to re-read that twice to make sure it was real. And now I can’t stop laughing. Ed)

And speaking of kid-friendly dishes, Puccini’s puddings are awesome.

Kids can’t resist pudding cabinets, can they, and Puccini’s is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, with creamy gateaux, jugs of chocolate sauce and oooh… all that sweet stuff. Arthur went for a whipped-cream-crested banoffee pie, and five, fresh profiteroles in the end, which, with coffee and a bottle of limey house Verdicchio brought the bill to a reasonable £80.

Obviously, our meal at Puccini’s wasn’t perfect but the restaurant exhibited enough quirk and, above all, promise to make a return visit more than likely. The staff really are something else too; polished to a sheen, the perfect gentlemen.

‘Look after your big sister for me, won’t you?’ the head waiter called after Arthur as we left - and if he hadn’t promptly collapsed in complete and legless hysterics, I would’ve walked away with a grin on my face too.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 6.5/10 food
5/5 service
3/5 ambience
Address: Puccini's
175 Chorley Road
Manchester M27

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

Frank WorthingtonOctober 6th 2010.

Wow a genuine 70's theme restaurant from the decor to the food, so authentic.......please tell me the waiter winked at you suggestively when he ground your pepper from a giant peppermill.

AnonymousOctober 6th 2010.

Puccini's is indeed stuck in a time warp. All those oh-so-jovial 'photos of football players put me right off. Why do Italian restaurateurs think this endears them to the English diners? Stand up San Carlo. You can't go far wrong with pasta and pizza can you though? As for Mr. Neville, they'll be a career as a chef waiting for him when he eventually hangs up his boots. that's for sure

NortherngeezerOctober 6th 2010.

I've had the saltimbocca alla romana here myself and on my visit the sage/meat balance was just right.
In fact i'd go as far as to say its probably one of the best i've had in an Italian restaurant.
I cant remember what else we ate, thats how memorable the rest of the meal was.

GordoOctober 7th 2010.

Northern, bugger me, you just said something nice! I take it all back...

ellpollolocoOctober 7th 2010.

reminds me of Harpers in town where the old man used to take us many moons ago...ahh the happy memories!

ellpollolocoOctober 7th 2010.

Now there's a topic..favourite seventies restaurants.....anyone remember the great American disaster?

DohertyOctober 7th 2010.

Would they get s better review if they advertised?

J E SibberingOctober 7th 2010.

The Golden Egg restaurant. I only went to the one in Preston, but presume Manchester had one, as it was a chain?


Going out en famille to the local Berni Inn was also de rigueur on special occasions.

DohertyOctober 7th 2010.

* a

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 7th 2010.

Doherty no. Check out Osteria Mauro review by Gordo. Now grow up.

JulieOctober 7th 2010.

My favourite restaurant don't go often enough but always celebrate our special occasions there. Have been a patron of this hidden gem since 1983! Always well looked after!

Lancastrian LazioOctober 7th 2010.

My family and I have been enjoying visits to Puccini's for over 20 years and have always had great food and service. F.Y.I there is a 'Pizza Howard' on the menu named after ex Man United Goalie Tim Howard !!!!

Peter HarrisOctober 7th 2010.

Berni Inns, What about the original Isola Bella! Wimpey bars!!

DohertyOctober 7th 2010.

T'was a genuine question Jonathan - one that I suspect has touched a sore spot......

Suzanne AckermanOctober 7th 2010.

No Doherty I suspect Jonathan is fed up of constantly having to repeat himself on this issue!

RedwoodsteveOctober 7th 2010.

Great Italian food and even better service. Some of the friendliest waiters I've ever had the pleasure of being served by. They have the mix just right in my opinion.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 7th 2010.

Suzyblew knew. Our policy is outlined on this story: http://tiny.cc/if1ps

GordoOctober 7th 2010.

Doherty, we treat paying and non paying restaurants exactly the same; it isn't a sore point, we just get tired after six years having to explain this time and time again. Boring. Very, very, boring.

GordoOctober 7th 2010.


NortherngeezerOctober 7th 2010.

U not read my rant about Earle's big fella?.
Me and Mr Rimmer are new bezzy mates..........oooohh, i feel like Paris Hilton now...........anyone got her number ;-)

MaggsOctober 8th 2010.

Fond memories of Harpers?? surely that's not possible as it must take the prize for the worst and most overpriced (for the food on offer)restaurant ever - my last memory of it is looking longingly through the window at Est Est Est which had just opened accross the way whilst waiting for some friends (they had picked Harpers not us!!)

GallerieOctober 8th 2010.

Harpers is bit dowdy and dull if truth be known

ellpollolocoOctober 11th 2010.

re harpers....we are talking circa 1978 here!!!

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