Originally opened in 1977 under the name Pizzeria Italia, some of the fittings haven't been touched since. Upstairs is a shrine to yesteryear, but rather than rip it all out and put in glitzy new fittings, Franco has decided to preserve some of the fantastic original features as a nod back to the restaurant's heyday in the 70s and 80s. Franco told us that Italia is the oldest Italian restaurant in the city. With so much history within its walls, it would be a crying shame to bring it into the 21st century. It gives the place some soul.
Saying that, there are no more ruched red napkins and the shabby signage that was Rustica's is gone. The original fittings have been complimented with a large 1950s poster and the odd vintage cheese label. We did suggest a framed picture of Roberto Baggio, but they weren't having it...
Yesterday we were lucky enough to be invited to a tasting session at Italia. Although I like Italian food, it has never been one of my favourite cuisines, mainly because I find pasta very heavy and a lot of the sauces a little boring. Wrong!
My husband and I went with our good friends Wayne and Vicki (MrsPetticoat) to put the menu through its paces. We were greeted by Franco and his front of house staff, and given a fantastic table perfect for people watching. The location is ace. From the window you can see right up Deansgate, perfect for a nosy Parker such as I.
The front of house staff deserve a mention before I even speak of the food. Very rarely do I go somewhere where they get it so right. We all agreed that whilst we were in Italia we felt like we were at a friend's house. They are chatty, funny and turn each course into a little bit of theatre. They were never intrusive and had us in stitches at regular intervals!
First came a selection of bruschetta. I have a confession. I am a huge fan of garlic bread with cheese so I tend to stick to that. This plate of wonder has opened my eyes to a whole new world! Beautifully sweet tomatoes, melt in the mouth lardo and something I am sure was some sort of spicy chorizo heaven. I can't wait to have these again.
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