After working out which were my current Didsbury Dining Dozen I decided to put my money where my keyboard finger was, a family trip to Piccolino Didsbury for a pre-Christmas treat. Didsbury Son grunted his unavailability early in the weekend and then there were four. Our midday booking got pushed back to 1 as I fell asleep, 2 as the twins fell asleep and we arrived promptly about twenty past; followed by a twin charge around the restaurant looking for chocolate coins.
Piccolino’s Didsbury incarnation was always a potential winner, fitting into the refurbished site of The Nose. The late 80s, early 90s Nose, opened by Liz, featuring the wonderful Henry, Sonia and the cast of Didsbury was way ahead of its time as a freelance meeting place for the Madchester cognoscenti keen to notwork with each other. We’re all 20ish years older and Piccolino is a catch-all for the city now and for M20 especially. It brings a little touch of Sardinia to West Didsbury, I always get to talk food and football. The bar is stocked and loud enough for a night out’s start or finish and for family purposes – they have cushions, staff who will dance with your toddler between courses and know how to balance the equally pressing needs for a kids’ bowl of pasta, a Pinot Grigio and an accessible changing table for emergencies.
I think what I like is the general upbeat, welcoming and engaging atmosphere. Beautiful 20 somethings impress each other on dates or in groups, cheek by the jowls of couples re-invigorating their domesticity, parents connecting with returning offspring and the young families hoping it’s someone else’s child who runs into a waiter delivering a full tray of glasses. It is a snapshot of South Manchester putting on a clean shirt for a warm welcome. Whenever we go I feel like its an occasion. Being a dad I like being able to tally that with Pizza and Pasta for a tenner a plate if I am feeling a little strapped but need to get out.
For our Christmas lunch Didsbury Wife and I went for the set menu, three courses for £21.50, which turned out to be a bargain worthy of Poundstretcher. The food was and is always spot on. There is a little I wouldn’t recommend. We had Bresaola with Pear and Walnuts and The Calamari followed by Tacchini Arrosti (Roast Turkey) and Merluzzo (a crunchy, melty, tangy Cod with something sausagey and gorgeous). We decided our Aldi frozen bird for 25th needs a rethink.
This turkey came to the table on a plinth of butternut squash with mini mushrooms of size and taste I have rarely seen. Its nonchalant ease made sweating in a cold kitchen with a Jamie book, guessing which end to stuff, seem a little sad. The cod tasted of… what cod should and The Pearly Princess’ Pizza was a spaceship with smiley face; calmness descended. We slurped wine as though we didn’t have to look after toddlers and they were quiet, munching and playing with the decorations.
Ice cream, Tiramisu, dancing with the staff and watching them greet each new child as a VIP with natural ease took us through until the sun went down and we had to brace the air and talk to the moon.
This was really our first successful dinner out with the toddlers since, ever. The quality of the food sits on a plate next to a team who genuinely made all of us feel a little bit special. Piccolino heralds itself as an ” Upscale chain restaurant with a contemporary interior and a menu of classic Italian specialities.” I’d go for top nosh and family friendly. In true Mighty Headed Boy style, he wants to go back today to play with the lights and eat ice cream. In true Didsbury Dad style, I saved a biscotti to have with a brew for after bedtime.
Piccolino Didsbury, 6 Lapwing Lane, Manchester M20 2WS. Phone:0161 434 7524