Scalini Fedeli, Tribeca, New York

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Scalini Fedeli is such a high end Italian, it could be the Silvio Berlusconi of restaurants. As I walk in, I imagine Wall St bankers taking their prey to be softened up with an expensive Chianti before mugging them for an eye-watering commission.

I reckon the waiting staff are in on the act.  They look impressively like Spatz Domino’s henchmen. I wouldn’t dare send anything back. Having said that, ruthlessly efficient and courteous. One of the themes of NYC service that has changed since my last visit 18 months ago (and one small part of me regrets this) is the tolerance, politeness, and friendliness you can nowadays expect even in the diners and delis.  Is there an economic down cycle or something?


La Pizza Fresca, East 20th Street, New York

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Al fresco, Pizza Fresca

Browsing through the comprehensive wine list, I was delighted, and more than a little relieved, to find a section marked Under $75, full of interesting wines.  What is this New York obsession with pricing wine like its skyscraper condos – way out of the reach of the average man?


Don Luigi – Lord of Liversedge

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

There is no shortage of choice in West Yorkshire when it comes to Italian restaurants.  But they are known to change hands occasionally.

I recently wrote up a posthumous review of Marco’s Ristorante in Hightown, Liversedge and a correspondent advised that this place has morphed into Don Luigi’s, run by Marco’s former head waiter, Fabrizio.  Having eaten there recently, I was delighted to agree with MG that several improvements have been made.  The cooking, decor and even wine list are all superior.

Don Luigi's exterior - can you see the name?


My sassenach sun shines in Glasgow

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

My own sun in Glasgow - just as well - it's minus 4!

I wonder what went through Claudio’s mind when I asked how warm the wine was.  I reached out my hand to touch the bottle.  Claudio winced.  Another stupid and ignorant Englishman?  Even worse than an ignorant Scotsman.  I grinned.  The bottle was cool.  Claudio nodded approvingly.  He had served the Primitivo Da Castello di Puglia at the recommended 16-18 degrees.  Probably even cooler actually, which suited the wine rather well.  Sweet flavours of cherries, cherry lips and bubble gum collided with the not unexpected tannic youth of the Italian stallion.


Mia Millennium mild malaise, mostly muddled moveables

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I really wanted to like Casa Mia Millennium.  My recent experience at Casa Mia Grande in Chapel Allerton was unparalleled.  Also, Marco, ex Flying Pizza and Marco’s is running front of house, so I had high hopes of the Leeds city centre branch of this popular family run restaurant cluster.

Unfortunately, it is almost, but not quite there.  For a start there is too much furniture in the awkward shaped rooms.  Getting to the bar is a mountaineering challenge if there are more than 3 people in a room that should have capacity for 25.

Millennium madness?

Upstairs the main dining room’s tables sit uncomfortably together like patients at a busy clap clinic.  It was almost impossible not to participate in the birthday celebration next door.  By contrast, the service is a bit uncoordinated and, although there appeared to be sufficient staff, we did feel a little neglected.


Trattoria Verdi, Southampton Row

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

On my new iPhone I have downloaded an application called AroundMe. It is totally brilliant.  Staying at the Grange, Holborn in London, I simply select Restaurants and AroundMe finds all the local ones, literally within a few hundred yards.  I can then locate my favoured choice on a map and ask for directions, shortcut to its website or quicklink through to dial its telephone number.

I was intrigued by Trattoria Verdi because it was founded in 1964, the year of my birth.  No resto lasts that long unless it has some loyal custos.  The waitresses however, were probably born thirty years later and wore the slightly supercilious, bemused, and yet knowing smile of the receptionist that served Alan Partridge at the Norwich Travel Tavern.


Marcos, Hightown, Cleckheaton

Friday, December 12th, 2008

A posthumous restaurant review.  Is this a joke?

Grim oop North!  Marco's drab exterior.


Gourmet Dinner at Casa Mia Grande, Leeds

Friday, November 28th, 2008

In the classic comedy series, Fawlty Towers, Basil plans a gourmet night to attract a higher class of clientele to the infamous Torquay hotel.  Kurt, the excellent new chef who fancies Manuel the Spanish waiter played by Andrew Sachs, until recently one of Jonathan Ross’ closest acquaintances, manages to get totally pie-eyed and passes out just before the dinner is supposed to be cooked.  With guests already arriving, local restaurateur, André, comes to the rescue with a three choice menu of duck with orange, duck with cherry or duck surprise (duck with neither orange nor cherry), that never makes it to the table.  The culmination of this disaster scenario is Basil thrashing his Austin 1100 with a branch in one of the funniest, well known and most repeated scenes of the comedy solar system.

So when Alan and Heidi invited us to Casa Mia Grande, a well known Italian restaurant in Chapel Allerton, for a “gourmet evening”, I quivered, took the car for a service, wore my stain proof pants and a shirt that could tolerate red wine spills.


Caffé Torino, Stresa

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I’ve been pretty unkind to Stresa.  It is a fabulous location for a quiet holiday and I spent just a few Autumn days there.  Plenty of boating, walking, cycling, even snow skiing a brisk 4 hour walk uphill away.  But I ate out at a few places in the town and mostly found it poor reward for my day’s exercise.

One notable exception was Caffé Torino where a superb meal for two with a bottle of wine cost only £1,340,056, or €54.30 at today’s exchange rate.  The antipasto (below) at €8 is one of the best value plates I have ever seen.

The Italian menu said Tagliere di Salumei di Mottarone which I translated as Viande Sechée or Succulent wind dried mountain pork and cheese from a nearby ski resort.  However the local linguist settled for the dreadfully American Cold cuts which turns this simply beautiful display into a CSI murder victim found in the cellar of a lonely spinster.


Caffé Bolongaro, Pallanza, Italia

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Stresa, majestically overlooking Lago Maggiore, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, should be a gourmand’s dream.  But sadly it caters to every tourist-trapping, pension-grabbing, fruit-juice-slurping, pie-eating, over-eating, day-trip-loving, coach-travelling, lip-smacking, tongue-slavering, downbeat, yester-year tourists from all of England and sometimes Italy.  The Germans are too sensible, or too time constrained to visit, and the Americans are all credit-crunched.

Although a beautiful town, unfortunately one of the best things to come out of Stresa is the regular boat to the islands and in less than an hour, Pallanza, where there is a single restaurant with something worth eating.