Karen Connolly enjoys a truly authentic Italian lunch at Salvi’s, Manchester.
I always believe there are two kinds of restaurant menus.
There are the ones where nothing really leaps out at you. You can scroll down, peruse, examine and scrutinise for ages without finding one dish to whet your appetite.
Then there are the others that make your eyes widen and kick-start a mammoth tussle between your inner conscience and your all-encompassing gluttony because you could literally hoover up everything on the bill of fare.
Salvi’s Cucina is most definitely of the latter variety.
This cosy Italian is an independent, family-run restaurant on Manchester’s John Dalton Street and although it opened just last year, it’s already become a city favourite.
Having an Italian father, the joys of discovering authentic Italian food without having to board a plane is truly wonderful. And by authentic I mean proper ‘street food’ pizza – plain, simple with the freshest ingredients, salads drizzled in the finest olive oils and the fish…oh lordy, the fish.
The restaurant has a great atmosphere and lunchtime is obviously no exception. We (my mum and I) were shown to a window table and after an agonising 15 minutes or so deciding what to have – we could have taken a whole lot longer but the waiter did have others to attend to – we managed to agree on a starter.
Freshly, and I mean just made, pizza dough, sprinkled with sea salt, ripped into bite-sized chunks and served piping hot with the most piquant of tomato sauce garnished with freshly torn basil leaves.
We ordered enough for two and both made a promise not to eat it all to ‘leave room for our main courses’. But promises are meant to be broken and the sauce was so divine we’d eaten the lot before we realised.
Selecting a main course was tricky and the hand-made pizzas being served to a table close by looked delicious. The menu splits the pizza for you into bianche (white) and rosse (tomato). So if you love cheese, bianche’s for you.
Talking of cheese, try Salvi’s mozzarella. You’d be hard pressed to find a creamier, more delicious one and it’s made by a lovely Italian using milk from his own buffaloes. Salvi’s use it on many of their dishes.
For my main course I had one of the daily specials, a dish of mixed grilled fish cooked in olive oil, lemon and salt. Squid, swordfish, cod and the most enormous king prawns known to man arrived with a side order of patate arrosto – potatoes served with rosemary and drizzled with olive oil.
My mum decided on the branzino al sae which is whole sea bass baked in a salt crust. It arrives at the table still in its crust and the waiter carefully chips away until the fish is revealed. An expert fillet leaves you with succulent pieces of meaty sea bass.
We also ordered an insalata di rinforzo – beautifully fresh cauliflower, tomato, peppers, capers and oregano – a perfect accompaniment to the main dishes.
Salvi’s is obviously passionate about its food and source all the produce from Italy. This results in the highest quality of dishes.
Dessert was a bridge too far, even for me, but my mum ordered the tiramisu, layers of coffee and cream and topped with cocoa powder.
If Salvi’s is a piece of Italy in the city, then its tiramisu is a piece of Italy on a plate.
Where: John Dalton Street, Manchester
When: Mon-Sat 10am-11pm; Sun 11am-10pm
More info: 0161 222 8090 or www.salvismanchester.co.uk
Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar is opening later this month at The Corn Exchange, Manchester