Italy meets Cheshire in magnificent style at the newest restaurant in the San Carlo collection, in Alderley Edge

In every piece of research undertaken asking about Britain’s favourite cuisine, Italian comes top, with, according to YouGov, 51 per cent of Britons naming the cuisine as their preferred option. Cheshire has its fair share of Italian restaurants, of course, and with the opening of San Carlo in Alderley Edge last summer, one of the very best in the UK landed right in the heart of the Golden Triangle.

San Carlo’s reputation preceded it – the Manchester restaurant a must-visit fixture on everybody’s dining list. They promise authentic Italian food in a lively, friendly atmosphere – and they certainly deliver.

We went in that slightly melancholy period just into the New Year, when the bright lights and sparkle of Christmas have disappeared, leaving us all feel rather flat. A night at San Carlo Alderley Edge however lifted all our spirits, with warm greetings and excellent, friendly service making us feel immediately welcome. The ambience is a key element to San Carlo’s success, of course, but it’s the food that has people going back again and again.

Great British Life: Choices choices! Culinary decision stress ensues at San Carlo Aldlerley EdgeChoices choices! Culinary decision stress ensues at San Carlo Aldlerley Edge

While I knew immediately what I wanted for my starter, Fegatini di Pollo (pan-fried chicken livers cooked with Marsala wine, chestnuts and grapes), Mike was in somewhat of a quandary – too many delicious options overwhelming his ability to decide. With help from our server, he eventually plumped for the Mozzarella in Carrozza, fried mozzarella in breadcrumbs with a basil and tomato sauce. My Fegatini was even better than I had hoped for – a very generous serving of sweet and soft chicken liver, large plump grapes and split chestnuts all wrapped in the most opulent, rich, deeply flavoured sauce. It came with thin, crisp slices of bread, which worked well for a contrast of texture, but not so much for mopping up the last scrapings of that awesome sauce. Mike’s mozzarella was light and crispy, and the tomato sauce super fresh and intense. Our daughter, Amber, had chosen Melanzane alla Parmigiana (baked layers of Sicilian aubergine with Parmesan cheese and tomato) and it was outstanding – a vibrant hit of rich tomato encasing soft, unctuous aubergine. “We always share starters,” she announced, as she dipped into my chicken livers. Had the Melanzane not been so good she risked losing a finger. 

My choice of main course took a little longer than my starter – the menu is a litany of all that is great about Italian cuisine, from pizza to pasta to pesce and carne and, of course, the San Carlo Grill. Eventually I opted for the classic Saltimbocca alla Romana (sliced veal with Parma ham, cooked in white wine, sage and butter), and a side of zucchini fritti (fried courgettes), and what an excellent decision that was. The veal was butter soft, the sauce mellow and the zucchini crisp and delicious. Mike again needed help narrowing down his options, eventually choosing the lamb noisette, served with Morel mushrooms in a red wine jus. His reaction to his first taste was considerable, leading to an intense conversation with our server about how long the chef spends creating the incredible red wine sauce that wrapped itself around the falling-apart lamb. Seven hours, apparently, and it showed. Amber chose from the pasta menu - Caserecce all'Anatra (short pasta served with slow cooked duck ragu) and described it as the ultimate winter comfort food. A huge portion of fresh pasta in a rich tomato sauce positively heaving with soft, shredded duck. She managed about half, so the rest came home with us for next day’s lunch – hers, of course, the rest of us wouldn’t dare touch it... 

Amber and I, somehow, found space to share a pudding – a Torta Pistachio, a soft pistachio mousse on a meltingly light sponge. Beautiful.

Our San Carlo Alderley Edge experience was excellent, from the greeting on the door to every last morsel of food and the red wine, a smashing Nero D’Avolo, our waiter advised to accompany it. Having an outstanding reputation must be both wonderful and stressful – every aspect of everything they do has to be on point, every time, but San Carlo are nailing it in Alderley Edge, and we shall be back.