I must confess right at the beginning of this review that I'm not much of an Italian restaurant kind of guy. I once took a girl on a date to one in Oldham when I was 17 and it was a complete disaster, and in retrospect, thinking about it now, she even did that thing from Grease where she hid her face behind the menu to avoid people seeing her.
With that experience in mind, there’s also the fact that I’ve always found Italian food to be something I can do pretty well at home, and so restaurants have to be extra-bloody special to impress me, as I’m always thinking at the back of my mind that I could be eating this in bed while watching Critters 2.
It was therefore with a heavy heart that I trudged down to the new Per Tutti pop up by Don Giovanni over on Liverpool Street – and although I was safe in the knowledge that my taste buds would be in the hands of established Don Giovanni experts, I didn’t really know what to expect from this second location, and whether their typically excellent offerings would transfer over.
Per Tutti has been around for years, but nothing compared to the 33 years that Don Giovanni have been banging out freshly prepared Carbonara every day and so it may seem like a rather odd concept. You’ll be pleased to know at this point that it does work and we found the food and the service to be excellent, and in a few instances, it surpassed the original Don Giovanni itself.
As an Italian-sceptic I will always find myself ordering things off the menu that I wouldn’t (or can’t) make at home myself. The Per Tutti menu could be considered a more condensed version of Don Giovanni’s, featuring many of their most popular dishes as well as stone baked pizzas to take advantage of the fantastic wood oven on site. The menu is still a bloody big bugger though, perfect for some bedtime reading and with pretty much something for everyone.
As is often the case with big menus, we were spoilt for choice and some considerable indecision ensued. We settled on the classic Antipasto (£8.95) to share for our starter, not wanting to get too full for the mains. We were rather impressed when it arrived, as the plate was placed in front of us, resembling a rather haphazard game of Ker-Plunk, it featured enough meat, cheese and vegetables to satisfy two people easily.
I have a particular soft spot for Mortadella ham and found both the amount and the quality of the meat on the plate to be excellent. Paired with a sizable amount of prosciutto and salami, there was plenty to tuck into, all of which went together like Turner & Hooch with the creamy mozzarella and chargrilled vegetables. My only gripe is that grissini sticks by their very nature aren’t really big enough to pair with the other ingredients, but it’s probably a good idea not to fill up on too much bread before the mains.
Once we’d polished off the Antipasto, a little too quickly to be fair, it was only a short wait until the mains came out. Again, we decided to share a couple of dishes, one was the Bresaola Pizza (£11.50), the other the Lobster Aragosta (£19.95). Oh and the obligatory Zuccine Fries (£3.50) on the side.
The Lobster Aragosta, or Spaghetti Lobster to anyone who didn’t go to school in Italy, is a dish that we’d both tucked into over at Don Giovanni, and was therefore our attempt to see if the quality had transferred over to the Per Tutti pop-up. To be perfectly honest with you, we both agreed that it was actually better than the one we had at Don Gio’s – which pleasantly surprised us.
This remarkable dish comes adorned with half a lobster on top, and a sizable portion of creamy spaghetti underneath. It seems strange to say, but the tomato sauce was a highlight – it managed to be creamy but also maintain that traditional tomato twang that you’d come to expect. It was a quality bit of sauce that managed to avoid any serious acidity, and went perfectly well with the meaty chunks of lobster – of which there was ample amounts.
Next up was the pizza, and to be fair to Per Tutti and Don Giovanni, the bar in the city has been set very high as of late and so they need to be special to get people’s attention. With the likes of PLY, Rudy’s and Honest Crust knocking about, the city has had a pizza-revolution of late and so naturally, people’s expectations and standards have risen. The Per Tutti restaurant does have one impressive weapon in its arsenal though – a proper wood-fired oven.
I must say that pizza was impressive, with a base which reminded me not of a sunny veranda in Verona, but instead a sunny rooftop in New York – which in my personal opinion, is better. It managed to be both crispy and chewy, not too stiff and not too floppy – pretty much everything you’d want from a pizza base to be fair.
The toppings too were quality, in this case it was draped in copious amounts of Bresaola beef and thick shavings of parmesan. Although it was a little difficult to eat with any sort of class or elegance, each mouthful was a delight and the addition of the peppery rocket worked perfectly with the cheese and meat. An impressive pizza which was a class act all the way.
By this point we were too full to tuck into any desserts, as is usually the case with me, but their Nutella Pizza (£6.50) would definitely have been on the cards if we were still a bit peckish.
All in all, this Per Tutti pop-up manages to carry across the quality and tastes you’d expect in Don Giovanni itself, while never feeling too forced or part of a ‘chain’. It actually managed to usurp it’s partner in a few areas, something we didn’t expect at all and were pleasantly surprised with.
DG X Per Tutti, 3-11 Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4NW
0161 834 9741