There are some real big names in pizza and pasta at the Corn Exchange nowadays, so family run Salvi’s is definitely up against the big boys. That said, after 4 years serving up some of the best Italian food this city has to offer, it’s pretty much the worst kept secret in Manchester. Towards the back end of last year we were there as they reopened their brilliant deli and mozzarella bar after refurbishment, but on Monday I finally got round to heading over there for a proper sit down meal.
Where else to start than with that famous mozzarella! We kicked things off with the 3 meats and cheeses sharer plate which took in salami, mortadella and prosciutto alongside burrata, smoked provola and mozzarella. The burrata was undoubtedly my favourite, like the chocolate fondant of the cheese world, it’s flesh melts away submissively. The provola is definitely worth a mention too though, simultaneously both stringy whilst also possessing that rubbery bite of a smoked cheese. The soffietti, deep fried pizza balls were the perfect accompaniment. I don’t often go for a dough ball as they’re usually just depressingly dry lumps of bread, but these are like crispy, light little pillows, best get them away from me before I eat them all.
A pasta course straight from the sea came next; tagliatelle with fresh tuna and bottarga, the orange, cured fish roe. Sharp saltiness from that roe makes the dish, but bitter, green friggitelli pepper and stracciatella cheese bring it all together too. Fresh pasta like this always somehow manages to feel both wholesome and indulgent all at once, perhaps that’s the great trick of Italian food. Polipo alla Luciana Octopus is Salvi’s grandmother’s recipe for octopus, cooked in tomatoes, capers and black olives. Tender tentacles in a rich, moreish sauce with bread for dipping, it’s feels like real home cooking. You could almost imagine yourself fighting with a sibling over the table for that last bite.
We accidentally ended up with three desserts, although this seems to happy to me so often these days I’m starting to think maybe I mumble too much when I order pudding in the hope I’ll end up mistakenly getting more than I bargained for. Tough job this. As it happened the extra dish was actually my pick of the bunch, a lovely luscious panna cotta with berries, super summery and just the job after a big meal. Tiramisu is always a must try for me too though, and this was a good one, well proportioned and with just enough sweet coffee aroma. We also tried the cannoli, mainly because I’d never had it before and when I asked our waiter what it was he recalled the famous scene from The Godfather Leave the gun, take the cannoli, well don’t tell Clemenza but it wasn’t for me.
If you haven’t seen the basement of Salvi’s yet they’ve done a great job creating a lovely place to enjoy a meal. It feels like a real haven, somewhere to while away a few hours, safe from all that hectic retail outside. Nowhere more so than the wine room we sat in, you’re flanked by walls covered in bottles, I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a try. And that goes for the restaurant in general, the very best ingredients sourced and prepared by people who are genuinely passionate about them, it’s an offer you can’t refuse.