Having seen a few, generally positive, reports of business in Little Italy from various media outlets, there was a level of expectation prior to our visit. Upon walking in, we were confronted by stencilled chipboard, plastic greenery and a reasonably spacious layout. All of this are par for the course when considering previous form in Little Italy’s sister restaurants; Tribeca (immediately next door and a premises on Berry Street in Liverpool) and the previously reviewed Neon Jamon [http://electrokemistcuisine.weebly.com/blogs/electrokemistry-review-neon-jamon-liverpool]. The sound of Dean Martin did admittedly make in wince inwardly for a moment, but thankfully that was the only relatively low moment of the evening.
Little Italy is nestled at the side of the Tribeca premises on Smithdown Road and is in fact on the same premises; having been spawned from a side room of Tribeca and although they share premises, Little Italy does promise much more. Essentially in the form of the trendy ‘little plates’ dining, which instantly puts some off, but not here. The Italian style ‘tapas’ have tips of the hat and knowing winks to a variety of Italian influences from North, South and islands.
The service was breezy and friendly for the duration and aside from a delay in settling the bill, little to be concerned about. The staff have obviously been given a tour of the drinks and dishes on offer, thus have a picture in their own minds, which dishes sing for them.
We start with some charcuterie, as is standard, it is presented on a wooden board, soft earthy rolls of capocollo toscano. This cured neck had slight a pungency that faded with each mouthful and was replaced with a delicate nuttiness. The service was fairly brisk, so dishes rained onto the table for my accomplices and I, thankfully the tide was stemmed by our hunger and eagerness to savour each of the drops in front of us. The bruschetta with figs and salami was clean, fresh and with a spiced meaty hit from the salami to form a hub to the flavour set. The crab and caper linguine, a delightfully messy dish, leaving me almost reminiscent of a young Italian boy tackling ragu soused lengthy pasta, leaving most of it on the pristine white shirt. The flavours were paired well, although this was by no means a stronger dish from the selection. Crisp and creamy Courgette flavours with mozzarella in batter, the radish and pecorino salad with celeriac and pomegranate and the ravioli of baccala and langoustine were all fresh and light punctuations to the spare ribs and the two stand-out moments of the meal.
The beef shin pappardelle was a superbly cooked dish. Thick and generous ribbons of pasta slathered in hunks of deeply flavoured and slowly cooked shin, which gave at the slightest touch of a fork. The ragu sauce was cooked well also, enough acidity and seasoning to play a supporting role to the earthy and sweet beef. Another excellent execution from the menu was the pigeon and hedgerow salad, judged excellently with the complimenting peppery leaves and fruit of orange and blackberries to give an acidic blade through a relatively rich gamey meat; which in itself was cooked slightly crisp outside to a moist, pink centre.
Desserts were a little polarised; whilst the chocolate mousse was presented in a tea cup with cream, it lacked enough of an x-rated touch from a swirl right through of the salted caramel it came with, which sadly sat at the bottom of the cup beneath the mousse waiting to be discovered. The baked nectarines however, could not have been more aptly tuned. Sweet and slightly caramelised, the nutty crumb of almond and biscotti contrasted in texture and flavour very well, along with a slightly tart hit from each mouthful of soured cream.
There are some excellently thought out dishes on the menu at Little Italy and not many poor ones, although the execution could be slightly fine-tuned, there is little else to pick at here, especially whilst the shin and pigeon are still resonating in one’s brain. Whilst it would be churlish to point out the pricing is a little heavy on some of the dishes on the menu, there is little chance a visit will leave you feeling too short-changed from Little Italy. You won’t even need any Euros.
Until next time… ciao!
336 - 338 Smithdown Road, Liverpool L15 5AN.
0151 733 4477