Lunch, dinner or drinks - the Castle Street gem with the warmest welcome
One of the original historic seven streets of Liverpool, Castle Street today is a bustling food and drink strip that boasts some of the city’s finest architecture. San Carlo has been a jewel in the crown of this cultural quarter for more than a decade, serving up exceptional Italian cuisine from its stunning home inside a former bank.
Chefs are inspired by the highest-quality Mediterranean ingredients
Since opening in 2009, San Carlo Liverpool has earned a reputation for its famous clientele, from footballers to screen stars. It’s still a good place to spot a celebrity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a restaurant for the people. It’s a family business, after all.
The San Carlo story begins in Sicily, the birthplace of chairman Carlo Distefano. A tale of entrepreneurial success, Carlo arrived in Britain in 1962 aged 17, with £12 in his pocket, a work permit and the promise of a job at a barbershop.
By the age of 20, Carlo opened his first joint business venture in Leeds. Working six or seven days a week, any free time would be spent in London where he’d dine at the most lauded restaurants in the city, including the Savoy, the Dorchester and Simpsons.
In 1992, Carlo opened his first restaurant in Birmingham. Joined by two generations of the Distefano family, San Carlo now has 23 Italian restaurants, each one with its own unique character, underpinned by a passion for great food, service and style.
San Carlo Liverpool is a restaurant for all seasons, but the warm welcome never changes. Customers love it here and they keep coming back, whether it’s for a business lunch, catch-up with friends or recharging after a shopping spree in Liverpool ONE. It’s also a place where families can enjoy dining together, from grandparents to bambinos.
Offering a contemporary take on the traditional Italian restaurant, San Carlo is centred around its open-plan dining room, with comfy booths and a stylish bar area. You’ll find all of your Italian favourites on the menu here - bruschette, pizza, calzone, tagliatelle bolognese, spaghetti carbonara, lasagne emiliane. (Gluten-free pasta is available too.)
The antipasto is a popular pick, a platter of Italian favourites that represent the regional tastes, including Serrano ham, olives, mozzarella balls and sweet sun-blushed tomatoes.
Feeling a little more adventurous? Frittura di pesce Portofino is a sharing plate of seafood inspired by the Italian fishing village, with deep fried calamari, prawns, scampi and scallops, served with tartar and sweet chilli sauce.
Other starters include beef carpaccio - thinly sliced raw Aberdeen fillet of beef with mustard dressing, parmesan cheese and rocket - and Colchester Rock Oysters, served with shallots in red wine vinegar and tabasco.
From the main menu, there are plenty of choice cuts to choose from including fillet, sirloin, rib-eye and T-bone steak, plus speciality dishes such as pollo milanese, lamb cutlets with Barolo red wine, and Tuscan fennel sausage.
Authentic Italian cuisine has a strong focus on seafood and San Carlo is no exception, from sea bass fillets baked in black Etna sea salt, to chargrilled langoustine, Dover sole and fresh monkfish. Italians love to share huge plates of “gran pasta” and the spaghetti frutti di mare is the perfect dish for two, made with fresh clams, mussels and prawns.
The menu is extensive and goes way beyond your usual Italian eaterie, but staff are on hand to answer any questions and point you in the right direction. On our recent visit, we decided to go for a selection of small plates - many can be done as both a starter and main course size, ideal if you want a light lunch or to share a selection of different dishes.
Chefs are inspired by the highest-quality Mediterranean ingredients with a focus on simple preparation. Avocado salad had fresh green chunks mixed with sweet vine tomatoes, topped with red onion in a balsamic and pomegranate dressing, beautifully balanced.
Burrata is one of Italy’s most treasured cheeses, a special mozzarella that’s blended with cream. Hailing originally from beautiful Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot), the dish here was served with Parma ham and marinated black truffle, a perfect combination of textures.
Melanzane al forno - baked Sicilian aubergine layered with parmesan cheese and tomato - was a heavenly veggie version of lasagne. From the sea, gamberoni alla diavola - juicy tiger prawns sautéed with garlic, fresh chilli and white wine, served with Altamura bread.
San Carlo’s signature tagliolini lobster is lip-smackingly good pasta, the kind that warms the soul. Ravioli lobster is another of their popular dishes, plump pasta stuffed with lobster and crab meat, in a light creamy and pink peppercorn sauce. The portion size was just right, with plenty of sauce, but not so rich that it would fill you up before dessert.
After much deliberation between tiramisu and pavlova, our host suggested the torta setteveli, a light chocolate and hazelnut cake, that was the perfect end to our meal.
There is a vast selection of beers, wines, cocktails and spirits on offer, making San Carlo the perfect place to pop in for a drink at the bar and see where the mood takes you. With a hard-earned reputation for superb service, comfortable surroundings and value for money, it’s no wonder that San Carlo Liverpool is still numero uno when it comes to authentic Italian food.
San Carlo, 41 Castle St, Liverpool L2 9SH
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