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Zilli Season At Cicchetti

Gordo bigs up a food liaison and steals photographs

Published on November 14th 2012.

Zilli Season At Cicchetti

COMPETITION is a good thing.

It's taken a while, but it's showing to be a truism for Italian restaurants. This time last year, Gordo was despairing of the number of Italian restaurants opening, with only San Carlo and Cicchetti really continuing raising the bar.

Deep fried Gamberonis’ are part peeled, slit down the back, dipped into seasoning and then into the fryer. Taste that and you’re across the road from the restaurant, sat comfortably on the quay, waiters dodging traffic to serve you.

Jamie's, apart from being pretty darned spectacular from a looks point of view, is tame; Rosso still remains all fur coat and no knickers and the old style pizza/pasta gaffs will remain as long as us, the public, are prepared to put up with their shit - as the Americans say. 

Zillis Orecchiette Porcini Vongole_Clams_

Zillis orecchiette porcini vongole clams from a professional photography called Carl, click here.

Today, we have a little light peeking through the gaps. The really quite simplistic beauty of Salvis, with some of the best ingredients in the UK, The Hideaway up at Ramsbottom, and Piccolino on Albert Square consistently show them selves to be masters of the pasta dish. They demonstrate that all is not lost.

Even Carluccios gave itself a makeover and along with that softer feel, began delivering pretty good stuff for a chain restaurant. Gordo loves their bean soup. 

Franco Sotgiu's is engaged in re-launching Italia, which is still a work in progress, but he recently showed Gordo a spectacular oxtail gnocchi. Meanwhile Avalanche, the new Booth Street Italian, assures Gordo that their point of differentiation and pride will be their fresh fish counter. Or at least the gaffer, Bob, did. Another of the owners thinks it’s got edge because of the bar downstairs. Hmmm. 

With Italian cuisine it appears that the end is in sight for the non-Italian owned restaurants hoping to make a fortune out of flour, water and tomatoes. I mean, would you go to a ‘Chinese’ owned and run by, say, Russians or Persians? 

Italian food is all about the...er... food. Gordo has met three non-Italian restaurateurs in the past year who have one thing in common; not one has ever smelled an Italian tomato on the vine, had a melon cut from the ground and eaten it three minutes later with the family's own Parma ham, which started life in the pens a hundred metres away. Or, indeed, slurped Barolo deep in a cellar in Alba one crisp, fresh February morning. They have all, to a man, left it to their chef to order off a white van. 

Leaders in genuine Italian food have been for some time in the city centre, the owners of Cicchetti and San Carlo, the Distefanos.

Zillis Prawns Borlotti Beans And Chargrilled Wild ChardZillis prawns Borlotti beans and chargrilled wild chard from a professional photography called Carl, 
click here

Whilst owner Carlo shows himself to be a wily old fox and a fantastic businessman, his three children, Marcello, Allesandro and Marissa proved to Gordo on a trip to Alba earlier this year that they can take a big slug of the credit for ever increasing quality. Cicchetti in particular just keeps getting better.

And you only have to see the latest addition to the team to know just how much the family wants to stay top of the tree. 

Aldo Zilli is the new team member, a chef who shares Gordo's birthday and love of food, if not his good looks. 

Aldo owned a number of restaurants in Soho, as well as being one of the original TV chefs. Italian-born, he came to the UK in his early twenties. A great ambassador for Italian food, Carlo has talked him into working with the family to help Cicchetti and the rest of the brands keep the offerings fresh, honest and genuine. 

At a recent press dinner, Gordo was treated to a succession of dishes that are going to feature on the specials taken from Aldo’s little black book.

Stand out were the clams with truffle, a risotto dish with sausage (Gordo is pretty sure that it sounded a lot better in Italian!) and the biggest prawns that Gordo has seen in a while. The dinner was simply to show a few ideas from Aldo, which were coming onto the winter menu. 

Last night Gordo had a quick dinner at Cicchetti and ate a fabulous walnut Gorgonzola and chicory salad, a tail-end of fillet steak, which should be cut across the grain to Gordo’s mind, but he’s not Italian with a stand out wild mushroom cream sauce.

But have a look at the prawns in the amateur shot at the top of the page by Gordo. 'Deep fried Gamberoni’ are part peeled, slit down the back, dipped into seasoning and then into the fryer. Taste that and you’re across the road from the restaurant, sat comfortably on the quay, waiters dodging traffic to serve you. The fishing boats are lined up on the other side of the wall and its bright sunshine, 31 degrees with Lambrettas puttering past you.

Gordo as you can probably tell, likes those prawns. 

Go to Cicchetti’s.

It’s a Gordo favourite, he eats there on his days off. You should too. 

By the way, as of 24 February 2009, Aldo holds the world record for the most times a pancake is flipped in one minute. He flipped it 117 times. Just letting you know. Gordo is a one of life's givers.

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

pollolocoNovember 15th 2012.

If you are a premiership footballer/manager/local food critic or soap actor then San Carlo is for you...they will pucker up and kiss your arse royally. If, like me, you are just an ordinary pleb....you'll get treated like shite. If you are after good, no nonsense Italian food, get down to Italia...Manchester's best Italian by a country mile.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoNovember 15th 2012.

oh dear me Pollo, if you can't conduct the orchestra they will take the piss out of you my friend

pollolocoNovember 19th 2012.

Now now Gordo...you and Marcello have been getting it on for years...beauty and the beast!

JoanNovember 15th 2012.

I'm neither a footballer nor an actor nor good critic. I've found the service at San Carlo polite, professional and efficient and the service at Cicchetti's usually the same, with any drop in efficiency more than matched by an increase in charm and politeness.

JoanNovember 15th 2012.

Whoops. That should be 'food critic'. Maybe....

MaggieNovember 16th 2012.

Salvi's all the way...........

bellel7January 24th 2013.

Cicchetti's in a most deserved way seems to have robbed 'MCC's Best Italian' title for me.
It was the prawns that got me actually - and Im a HUGE San Carlo fan but its lil' sister took centre stage and never gave it back ;-)

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