Cheshire Life Luncheon - Aldo Zilli at San Carlo, Manchester

Carlo Distefano, Aldo Zilli and Marcello Distefano

Carlo Distefano, Aldo Zilli and Marcello Distefano - Credit: Archant

Cheshire Life guests were privileged to have renowned chef Aldo Zilli cook for them at San Carlo, Manchester, writes Rebekka O’Grady

Tom Sykes, Uma Trehan, Tracy Mackey and John Pagan

Tom Sykes, Uma Trehan, Tracy Mackey and John Pagan - Credit: Archant

It would be difficult to have ingredients more authentic than tomatoes flown in from Sicily, burrata sourced direct from Puglia and risotto with flavours from the Adriatic Sea, but that’s what makes San Carlo so special. Their passion for the freshest and most genuine ingredients makes the restaurant on King Street West in Manchester city centre a go-to destination for all things Italian.

Guests at the latest Cheshire Life lunch were not only lucky enough to sample some of these dishes, served by charming waiters in the private dining area, but have it cooked for them by none other than award-winning Italian chef, Aldo Zilli. Aldo, famed for his high-profile restaurants and recipe books, joined the San Carlo Group in 2014 as executive consultant chef after deciding to close his acclaimed Soho restaurant, Zilli Fish. Now the chef, born in Abruzzo, provides his expertise alongside devising new seasonal menus for the group’s 19 restaurants.

‘It’s not work here, all joy,’ Aldo tells me, while taking a break from preparing our main course, lobster risotto. It’s one of his specialities, as he is able to use truffles – which come in at £4,000 a kilogram. ‘I have known Carlo Distefano (chairman of San Carlo group) for over 25 years. He allows me to buy the best of the best from Italy; it’s like taking a child to a toy shop!’

Aldo said that for a chef to give up his restaurant for something completely new (he now runs Zilli Media, a PR and marketing consultancy for restaurants, bars and cafes) is a big change, so having a hands-on approach at San Carlo is excellent.

Claire Cooper, Dila Gulomova and Julia Slater

Claire Cooper, Dila Gulomova and Julia Slater - Credit: Archant

‘Both Carlo and I are old fashioned when it comes to service and food, the entire experience of it all. The secret is maintaining that Italian heritage – all the staff are Italian. When I came on board it was a match made in heaven. The best just got better.’

After being seated in the elegant private dining area, we were served our first dish, burrata with winter tomatoes. The dish, a cross of flavours of Sicily and Puglia, is simplicity at its finest. Sun-kissed tomatoes burst with brilliant flavour and are paired perfectly with the soft Italian cheese, which once cut into reveals a creamy and moreish texture.

Aldo’s speciality of lobster risotto with truffle went down a treat, and it was a charming touch when the chef himself came into the room giving out second helpings. Inspired by his childhood, it’s easy to see why the dish has become a favourite in the restaurants. The risotto was perfectly cooked (of course) and if you closed your eyes you could have been eating lobster by the sea. A guest next to me commented on how delicious the vegetarian option was: pasta with tomato and aubergine.

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Then dessert arrived: a picture perfect slice of pistachio cake with homemade gelato, super light and almost a mousse consistency, it was the ideal way to round off a delicious lunch.

San Carlo is a true taste of Italia, and with fresh ingredients being flown in from the Mediterranean all the time, there really is no need to board a plane when you hunger for genuine Italian food.

From the menu:

To start

Burrata with winter tomatoes

To follow

Lobster risotto with truffle

To finish

Pistachio cake with homemade gelato

To drink

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

Il Rosso dei Vespa


San Carlo, 40-42 King Street West, Manchester, M3 2WY

Tel: 0161 834 6226,

Monday to Sunday 12pm to 11pm

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