Real Italian food is invading the city.
And we are certainly not complaining. A dining scene previously dominated by Pizza Express and Bella Italia’s of the world – Italian cuisine has apparently undergone a bit of “glow up”. Except it’s not a glow at all. It’s simply an educational revolution that has seen local chefs take the kitchen into their own hands, taking us civilians (and our taste buds) on a journey back to their homelands, ridding themselves of any unwanted American and British intervention. .
And it was about time too. The ‘traditional’ UK city center has transformed rapidly over the past decade, gradually abandoning its reputation as a gray filter and chain-dominated instead of a much brighter and much more cosmopolitan image – backed by independents animated at every turn. This transformation was not reserved for the capital either. Thriving cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds have benefited, paving the way for a whole new league of restaurateurs.
Enter the era of the street food chef. Now, if we had said “street food” barely a decade ago, the mind would have sprung to the white cut-and-paste trucks that could be found in the parking lots of shopping complexes, all giving off the smell. familiar to fried and processed onions (read: frozen) hamburger patties. Fast forward to 2021 and the concept is very evolved, seeing talented chefs tapping into their heritage (and coveted family cookbooks) to bring more authentic tasting experiences to life. As a result, the Italian cuisine we knew ten years ago is not the Italian cuisine we know today. The Italian cuisine we know today is real Italian food.
La Botte has finally, officially, authentically arrived in the rainy city. And sure, it’s like The Boot in a Nike Air Max, but when we’re lucky enough to have restaurants like Sugo Pasta Kitchen, Rudy’s, and Salvi’s, it’s barely noticeable. And hey, on a summer day Manchester could easily be mistaken for Milan… Or, at least Salvi’s owner Maurizio says it’s compatible, and he’s a man who knows Italy better than anyone. .
This year alone, Manchester has hosted exciting new ventures from small-scale chefs such as Mira MCR and Lazy Tony’s Lasagneria, both of whom have brought unsaturated dishes to the city that have managed to shine a light on something other than Neapolitan pizza – a decision that might be considered quite risky in a city dominated by chewy, leopard-adorned crusts.
Speaking about their decision to bring real Neapolitan street food to Manchester, the team behind Mira MCR said: “A few years ago we visited Naples and when we looked for places to eat the Cuzzetiello immediately catches our attention. Obviously we knew the pizzas and pasta were huge there, but we didn’t know anything about those crazy sandwiches so we had to get involved! Not only do they look and taste great, but the story behind them is also so uniquely Italian that it was impossible to ignore.
“Cuzzetiello was born from the idea of tearing off the end of a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of using it to scoop up fresh ragú from the stove. Imagine children picking up bread at the store on their mother’s behalf and tasting dinner with a dip; Nonnas giving in to impatient family members while waiting for a simmered delight to be served; a snack packaged by the wives in the morning as the men were sent off to work. Small beginnings!
Adding: “The variations are ingrained in old-school Neapolitan cuisine, with the exception of the occasional specials, and it’s a food everyone in Naples seems proud to keep sacred. When we got back we started trying different recipes, focusing on three Neapolitan classics: the meatball ragú, the eggplant parmigiana and the Genoese stew.
It wasn’t just Mira MCR who was keen to bring the under-represented dishes to the city, with Lazy Tony’s proclaiming their love for lasagna, calling it “a bit neglected and under-represented”. And we can’t help but agree. A hearty classic that inspires warmth and happiness in every guest, Italian exports have much more to offer than pizza and pasta. In fact, our revolution in Manchester has barely begun.
So what’s next for the Manchester Little Boot? Our own Italian city to compete with China Town? A street food obsession with Panna Cotta? It’s hard to say. But what we do know is that the return of half-assed Italian-British fusion cuisine is certainly not something we’re going to be worried about.