I’m a self confessed Italian food addict: it’s possibly my favourite cuisine to eat out and enjoy, even though I know a lot of people can find it rather unexciting. A typical Italian restaurant can have the stereotype of just offering pastas and pizza that can easily be replicated in your own kitchen, so I understand the importance of trying to find an Italian which offers something ‘more’. Luckily, from last week, I think I’ve found my new favourite Italian situated on Oxford Street in Manchester…
Last Thursday evening, myself and my guest headed to Don Giovanni Italian restaurant, which I have actually noticed for many years and have walked past it’s windows on various occasions, wondering what the food would be like in there. I guessed it had a good reputation due to how long it has been running for (30 years), and that every time I pass it always seems to be bustling with a busy crowd. No matter what day or time of day it’s been, it’s rare I pass the place and see it looking quiet. Always a good sign, plus it has a rather premium looking exterior which is always an impressive touch. People do actually judge a place from what it looks like from the exterior, which may be a wrong thing to do, but it’s true.
The insider interior is very modern to say the restaurant has been open for many years, which deep tan coloured booths and seats, plus a warming gold/bronze feel to the bar area with it’s pretty lighting. We were greeted by a pleasant and polite front of house lady, who took our coats and lead us to our booth close to the window. The seat we were given was perfect; it allowed me to ‘nosey’ out at the rest of the restaurant and see what the other parties and groups were eating. Some say you shouldn’t stare at other diners plates, but I always tend to do it to get a bit of food inspiration first – oops!
We ordered a large glass of house red wine to go with our food, which was lovely and rich. To say it was the house red, it tasted a lot more expensive, much more like a mid-range wine. The waiter who delivered us our wine, who then served us for the evening, was possibly the happiest and most attentive waiter I have ever experienced which was a refreshing service to have. He was so smiley, friendly and approachable, that I knew straight away he had no problem looking after us for the evening. Lets face it, there is nothing worse than a waiter that looks like they don’t really want to be there.
He handed us the menus, which I can only describe as extensive and full of choice. The pasta and risotto choices were endless, but there were also lots of other enticing choices too such as pizzas, meats, fish, salads and steaks. Just to prove it’s not your bog standard Italian with unexciting pasta dishes, there were options such as Lobster Ravioli (and crab ravioli), squid ring risotto, half lobster served in the shell with garden peas, onion and garlic, and smoked salmon and pink peppercorn farfalle pasta. Fish dishes included some tasty options such as wild Scottish monkfish, sea bass fillets, salmon served with prawns and a shell seafood mix including half lobster, giant tiger prawns, langoustines, clams, mussels, monkfish and salmon.
I was again slightly spoilt for choice with the starters list, but opted for Melon and Prosciutto, and my guest went for Cornish Crab Cakes. Other slightly enticing options from the starters included Melanzane Parmigiana (baked aubergine with cheese), pan fried octopus and the duck and chicken pate. I was given more than a generous amount of melon (so much I had to pass a slice to my guest), and the prosciutto was delicious. I tasted the crab cakes too and they were also a great call for starters.
As for my main, I chose Lobster Ravioli purely because this is my very favourite Italian dish, and not everywhere offers it. The version at Don Giovannis came with a touch of chilli and featured 7 large parcels packed with lobster, and it didn’t disappoint at all. It was full of flavour which a slight chilli kick, yet kept its creamy base. My guest went for tagliolini with langoustines, king prawns, garlic, chilli and tomato, and was a thoroughly enjoybale dish too. Portion sizes were just right, and costing around £14 for a pasta dish full of seafood is quite reasonable I would say.
It was fair to say we were both fairly full after the main courses, but opted for a ‘light-ish’ dessert to finish off the meal. My guest ordered the assortment of ice-cream (pistachio, vanilla and strawberry), and I went for the vanilla cheesecake with berry compote. The slice of cheesecake was actually the best size for a dessert, as it wasn’t over-facing like some can be. I have the tendency to eat large portions no matter if I’m full, so I appreciated that the slice of cake was more manageable. It tasted lovely, with a sweet touch of berries to layer up on my fork.
I couldn’t fault anything about the Don Giovanni restaurant on this particular Thursday evening. The ambiance and welcome was warm and friendly, the service was fast and friendly, and the food was tasty and generous. It’s always a good sign when you struggle to pick your menu options because you are just so overwhelmed with the fantastic choice.
A huge thank you to all the team at Don Giovanni’s, especially the lovely and kind waiter who went above and beyond.