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Harters

Da Piero, Irby, Wirral

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I find it hard to find “proper” Italian food in the north west. And, by “proper”, I mean top quality ingredients, cooked simply to allow the natural flavours to shine through. Even in the good places, the menu seems to read more of Carnforth than Calabria. So it was with some surprise that I saw this little place scoring a 5 in the Good Food Guide. I was even more surprised to read the online menu and see hardly a nod towards the usual run-of-the-mill Anglo Italian trattoria stuff. It just had to go on the list to be visited.

And it is a tiny place – just 14 covers, although they are about to expand into the shop next door to take them up to 32. Piero runs the kitchen upstairs with a couple of helpers; his wife, Dawn, is a very welcoming front-of-house. Although she misses a trick in not offering an aperitif.

The menu is a mix of Sicilian and Northern Italian dishes, with a few more generic items thrown in. Caponata is about as Sicilian as it gets and, although not the world’s greatest fan of fried aubergines, I ordered it. And was really glad I had. It was a lovely silky soft stew of aubergine, celery, pine nuts and olives – sweet and vinegary at the same time and served warm – not hot or cold - warm. The other starter was more of an assembly job – bowl of rocket, handful of crayfish tails, dressing of oil, lemon and garlic. A pleasant enough light beginning.

We then shared a plate of linguine with lemon sauce. Perfect “al dente” pasta. A clingy dressing that had a faint taste of lemon. Perhaps too faint in our view.

For mains, a beef dish which, in the Sicilian dialect, is “canni cunzata”. Very thin slices of beef rump, marinated in oil & garlic and then quickly char-grilled. It was served with some grilled tomatoes on the vine and was an absolute belter of a dish. The other plate was a simple sounding sausages and lentils. But here, two large and very meaty sausages, made on the premises, were spiced up with a decent chilli hit, before being sat on Umbrian lentils, cooked with carrot and celery. Excellent contrast in texture and flavour – but you still knew you were eating something very much still a rustic dish.

Sticking with the Sicilian theme, my partner ordered a cannolo for dessert. Rich with sweetened ricotta and orange peel which the menu notes is candied by Piero over a period of 12 days. I went for a chocolate semifreddo. This was another rich, delicious concoction, although there wasn’t really much of the “freddo” left.

At this point, Piero arrived for a brief chat with each table which is always a nice touch.

A couple of excellent espressos finished off a thoroughly enjoyable evening.


John Hartley

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Thanks for this review - I've seen several really positive reviews, and 5 stars in the GFG is quite something for a small local place like this. I keep meaning to go there, but haven't got round to it yet - I hope expanding doesn't change things quality-wise.

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We went there a year ago on the advice of someone who posts here - I can't find the thread. Our experience was the same as yours - it was excellent & like being in Italy. I was so pleased when I saw its high score in GFG.

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Thanks for this, Harters. We live not so far away but this place had gone completely under the radar. Looking forward to our first visit.

Do you know if it will be closed during the expansion into the nextdoor premises?


Edited by Chaihana Joe (log)

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Do you know if it will be closed during the expansion into the nextdoor premises?

I suspect probably not.

They've already knocked through and there's temporary screening over the archway. I think they could fit out and then just remove it and be ready to go (although, if it was me, I'd take the opportunity to close off the original bit for a few days for a lick of paint and so on). Good design, in my view, it'll mean both bits will still feel quite very intimate.


John Hartley

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I had a good dinner here just over a year ago.

We ate and drank quite a bit. Booze prices are great. You can also buy the olive oil (and wine) - if you ask - it is good.

Favourites would be the venison ragu, tuna tartare, Fagioli del Purgatorio, and house made sausages and lentils. Ice creams were really good too, very rich in a good way.

We ate a lot. The fish mixed gril was not so great (a bit over cooked) but most plates were good. The bread could have been better too, but this is a really small place. They may have another supplier or make thier own by now.

I have called for a short notice reservation a couple of times with no luck. A couple of weeks for reservations at weekends needed so the additional space should be a bonus, if they can get staff.

I must go again.


Martin

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What a tiny place - there were 16 covers on Tuesday evening. The partition was still up and peering through the window, it looks like their plan of opening the second half of the restaurant by Easter might be a reality. Piero's son has completed his studies and will be joining Piero in the kitchen then.

Our experience pretty much matched Harters. Excellent food on the whole, prepared with real care and attention. Highlights were Carne condita alla Siciliana (canni cunzata) - strips of rump steak thinly sliced, marinated in hardy herbs and chargrilled before being doused in oil and lemon. And their pasta - a sausage and radicchio farfalle, lemon linguine, clams spaghettini. All textbook examples. The only ever so slight dud was the osso bucco - I felt it had been made separately to the sauce which was a bit over oniony/sweaty and the meat a touch fridge old. But a minor gripe. Whole grilled seabass, meaty sausages with Umbrian lentils, mixed grilled of fish and sides of caponata, braised peas and delicious 'purgatory beans' dressed in olive oil were only a sample of a pretty extensive menu, particularly of main courses. For such a tiny kitchen and small number of covers, I was surprised at the number of dishes offered.

What set Da Piero apart for me was the warmth of the service we recieved from Dawn, their wineware which was changed for each differnt bottle we had (4) and the overal precise and correct execution of all of the food. To have this on my door step would be a real treat. It really is the type of neighbourhood restaurant anyone would wish to have. Is it destination - if you're heading to the area, I'd make an extra effort to go there.

On the wine front we had:

Ca'di Frara Riesling 2009 - a light, clean slightly zesting wine from Lombardy, perfect apertivo.

Collemasari Vermentino 2009 (Tuscany) - aromatic, a little oily, pure, lemon notes. Excellent with our pasta.

Fanti Rosso di Montalcino 2008 - an absolute steal, a wine delivering lots of bang. Uplifting, bold nose of cedar and spice, it was quite rustic yet not rough, lots of dark cherry. With the beef it was the perfect match.

Fianlly a sweet wine which Piero described as 'the finest wine ever made!' and he wasn't kidding. A sweet Amarone style (grapes dried before pressing) wine from the island of Elba, it was nectar, beguiling, lucious and on Tuesday the finest wine we ever did have and one I will definelty be seeking out.

So we're really glad we made it here, a real joy.

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It is a little while now since my last visit to Da Piero. The new extended dining room is now open, meaning there are four more tables.

We ate

Farfalle with sausage and radicchio. A good quantity of crumbled sausage meat moistened with a little cream was well seasoned and very plentiful. The radicchio not as assertive as I had imagined, it was a very good bowl of pasta.

Spaghetti with Clams. Another large dish of tasty pasta with more than a hint of chilli and a decent amount of clams. Good olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and a little parsley made for a simple, satisfying dish.

We followed this with

Sicilian style sausage with lentils was served up as a pair of large homemade spicy sausages well flavoured with spices and chilli over a healthy portion of lentils. The lentils are imported from Umbria and are cooked with pancetta and vegetables and packed plenty of savoury goodness. It was good.

Black Gold T-bone steak. This and the fillet are sold by weight. This one weighed a little over half a kilo. It was good. The fillet side was excellent. It came cooked quite rare, possibly a bit more medium rare than rare. I suppose it will have cooked on while resting. Anyway, it was large, well seasoned and well flavoured - very enjoyable. The side salad of dressed mixed leaves it came with was ok, not great but ok.

We shared some ice cream to end. The flavour of the ice cream was good, particularly the vanilla. The consistency was not so pleasing.

We drank much more sensibly this time than our first visit.

We took a bottle of sparkling pinot nero - Ca’ di Frara Damblé 2009 and a small carafe of House Sicillian Shiraz. Both were fine.

Service was good. The restaurant was full on Friday evening and on the couple of occasions I have called at short notice it usually is. I am looking forward to going back.

I was asking about the beef as we were paying and it transpires that it comes from the Italian butchers also in Irby. I don’t know exactly how this works in terms of ownership but the butchers will be selling goods from the restaurant and also selling deli items, cheeses etc sourced by the restaurant. I went on Saturday morning to have a look. They are still developing and expect to have more stock after the August holiday period. There was a selection of cured meats, Italian cheeses, and fresh porchetta. The raw meats and butchery was good too. I bought another t-bone, some oak baked ricotta and a couple of good sausages. There is room for improvement in terms of window dressing but it is worth a look if you are passing.


Martin

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