Restaurant Review: Trattoria 51, Old Hall Street

Liverpool hardly suffers from a shortage of Italian restaurants. We’re blessed with a wide richness of pizzerias to suit all budgets, but new restaurant Trattoria 51 has only added to that wealth.

After much success with his Southport restaurant, restaurateur Attilio has ventured down the west coast to bring his own taste of Italy to Liverpool and our taste buds will be glad that the Italian chef has saved us the 40 minute Merseyrail ordeal to sample a menu bursting with authenticity.

Situated on Old Hall Street, Attilio has transformed what was once Jigsaw Bistro into a classy yet affordable Italian eatery; perfect for evening meals with that special someone or even a quick lunch-stop on the way to the shops.

What stands out from Attilio’s menu is that it’s short, and let me tell you why that’s a virtue. How many Italian’s have you sat down in, pulled yourself up to the red and white checked table, opened up the menu only to have a Pandora’s box of Italian named dishes thrown at you?

Variety is by no means a bad thing, but unless you’re a regular visitor to Italian venues (or native to the peninsula) then the extensive lists of dishes can be overwhelming.

Trattoria 51’s menu has a nice blend of choice without requiring half an hour of reading time from you. Pasta is plentiful (Penne Pollo Picante, Gnocchi Sorrentina) but not daunting. The pizzas are carefully selected so as not to appear like a cheap back-alley take-away (although Trattoria 51 do also offer a take-away service). There are classics (Margherita, Aloha), meaty ones (Carnivora) and there’s enough quality left over for vegetarian’s with Capra (goats cheese, sundried tomatoes and caramelised onions) the pick of the bunch.

It would be too easy to say that Trattoria 51 has chosen quality over quantity. The choice is there, it’s just that the experts have narrowed it down for us, giving us the very best of Italian cooking and even nudging us in the right direction.

You’ll notice from the menu, little flags of green, white and red occupy themselves at the end of certain dishes. We asked Attilio what these meant.

“They’re our recommendations. If you see an Italian flag next to a dish, it means you can’t go wrong”

Indeed it’s hard to go wrong with any of the dishes on the menu.

It may seem unusual to start the evening with meatballs- so often reserved for the fleshy middle part of the 3 course ‘sandwich’ but with such quality on show on the pizza and pasta front, this seemed like an appropriate tactic.

The meatballs (Polpette al Sugo) weren’t too plentiful, while the tomato sauce was rich with the kind of flavour that has you mopping up the leftovers with the accompanying rustic bread. My better half went for the Gamberoni Piccanti: king prawns, chilli and garlic with a white wine sauce and cherry tomatoes, and there was only satisfaction left on the plate.

The only trouble I have going into an Italian restaurant is trying to tear myself away from the pasta (we all have our vices) but there was enough noise coming from the pizzas to coax me to a stone baked base.

The Diavola (spicy chicken, pepperoni, chili and rosemary) was enough to tempt me and I couldn’t have been happier with the decision, especially as the staff were more than happy to fuss over my concern that it might be too hot.

Having tossed away the chili at my request, the pizza wasn’t too hot but I’m assured those who like their’s with a bit of a kick will not be disappointed.

The Cannelloni (ricotta, spinach, béchamel and tomato sauce) was as meaty a vegetarian option as you could hope for. A perfect combination of filling with a creamy texture.

While the jazz group added a sophisticated soundtrack to a venue brimming with style (the large Victorian windows especially make for a stunning place to dine), we set our eyes to dessert.

I’ve never been overwhelmed by Italian desserts, which may stem for my indifference to coffee flavoured tiramisus, but the choice here was enough to make us drool. The Zuccotto caught my eye but I began to veer from the ice cream cake with amaretto liqueur, crème anglaise and topped with almonds and chocolate sauce, because of the very mention of coffee.

But a quick chat with our waiter Vincenzo and he was happy to steer us back in its direction, and weren’t we glad he did. For someone who doesn’t drink coffee, there was no overpowering aroma and it was easy to forget it was even there, for the infusion of its flavours made for an excellent ending. Divine is not a word I use lightly, but the Zuccotto more than deserved the plaudits.

Attilio and his attentive staff pride themselves on their knowledge of authentic Italian recipes and cooking methods as well as their fresh, quality ingredients. Trattoria 51 has certainly made a fresh debut in Liverpool and one that has all the ingredients to establish itself in the heart of the city for years to come.

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