David Adamson checks in on a very popular neighbourhood spot

If you spend enough time covering restaurants you come to accumulate a sort of bingo card of buzzwords. 

Serving sushi and wagyu in sultry surroundings? You can't go wrong with 'opulent'.

Four walls and a coffee machine? It's not a room, it's a community space. 

One of the slipperiest of these signifiers is 'neighbourhood'. Often overstated and even more regularly whiffing of public relations. 

Not with Cucina di Vincenzo, which the good people of Childwall seem to have taken ownership of in every respect bar paying the gas bill, which in a way I guess they do.

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Ext
Outside Cucina di Vincenzo Image: Confidentials

When I went for lunch recently and asked my easygoing and attentive server who makes up most of their customers, he said locals from the immediate area. 

"How much?"

"90 percent. Really they own the place. I just work here."

We last reviewed Cucina di Vincenzo in 2017 not too long after it opened, and writer Gerry Corner wrote that "Cucina di Vincenzo is pretty much everything you want from a neighbourhood restaurant – smart, welcoming, well-lit, with good food at prices that will not induce cardiac arrest."

And I'm pleased to say it seems that little has changed. The decor is smart, welcoming and well-lit, the food was fantastic and as far as I was aware there were no gurneys being wheeled out the front door.

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Interior
Inside Cucina di Vincenzo Image: Confidentials

Inside has the relaxed, familial air of a taverna, or a trattoria, or a bistro - all of which mean essentially the same thing; an unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere where people rock up regularly to eat simple and delicious food. No pressure. 

With the wooden floorboards, bowls of citrus fruit and wine bottles adorning the walls it's a cosy, understated place, complete with a lovely central service bar from which the staff - who seem to genuinely enjoy working with one another - buzz about, pour pints, open bottles and have those abridged, 30-second full conversations that anyone who's worked in hospitality will be familiar with. Meanwhile the clientele happily chat away, each of the tables a little planet of chatter all its own. When those tables are made up of couples in their 20s to 80s, young mums and everything in between, you know it truly is a real neighbourhood spot.

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Upstairs
Inside Cucina di Vincenzo (upstairs) Image: Confidentials

Like any good restaurant of this sort, the specials are always worth consideration. It's the weekly blank slate for chefs, a sandpit for their current culinary distractions to take centre stage. I took a quick glance and was immediately sold on the Sashimi Tuna Carpaccio with braised fennel, rocket, olive oil and lemon (£14). 

A light starter but one with all the weight and gravitas of something more substantial, this is surely one of the great starters from Italy. Yes the sashimi tag may make the mind tend towards Japanese cuisine, but this was undoubtedly Italian. The tuna was clearly fresh and not adulterated with unnecessary faffing about, it's a beautiful fish when caught right and allowed to let its best qualities sing. The salad had plenty of bright notes of lemon and olive oil, along with a deep and intriguing balsamic vinegar. The fennel was well braised but crucially left with a bit of crunch for texture. A light delight.

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Carpaccio
Sashimi Tuna Carpaccio with braised fennel, rocket, olive oil and lemon Image: Confidentials

That day, my main course could only ever have been one thing - pasta. 

Sitting tucked away in the corner of a restaurant like this with a lunchtime bowl of pasta, time slowing to a crawl, is truly one of the great pleasures of this job, and of course in life more generally. And with that in mind you have to choose a dish that's deserving of bending the fourth dimension to the whims of a well-made sauce. 

I chose the titular Orecchiette Vincenzo (£20, £12 for starter portion) - made with the traditional 'little ears' Puglian pasta, Italian fennel sausage, spicy Calabrian nduja, pomodoro sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese. 

Plenty of dishes bear up to a paragraph of effusive, undulating prose about the notes, shades, points and counterpoints, the delicate interplay of ingredient, seasoning and execution, but when it comes to a bowl of pasta we eat with our eyes, and often we're thinking about it long before we've stepped through the door. The promise of pasta rings a town square-sized bell in the reptilian corners of our minds. So simply read the ingredients above, look at the picture below and see if it lights a fire. I found it to be fantastic, and was disappointed only by my own inability to finish it. I took the rest home for tea. 

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Pasta
Orecchiette Vincenzo Image: Confidentials

And finally something sweet. I'm definitely more than partial to a tiramisu, and cannoli are a conical invention up there with the martini glass, but I decided on an affogato - the perfect dessert for people who don't tend to order dessert. The vanilla ice cream was the ideal consistency, made to the point that it clings to the spoon, the espresso was dark and punchy and the amaretto that warming boozy blanket that wraps it all together.

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Affogato
Affogato Image: Confidentials

Cucina di Vincenzo is undoubtedly keeping the locals happy and well-fed, and in return they are doing the same to this establishment that's clearly more than an establishment. It's a neighbourhood, community space. No, really. 

Cucina di Vincenzo, 256 Woolton Road, L16 8NE

2024 06 07 Cucina Vincenzo Closer Pic
Cucina di Vincenzo Image: Confidentials

Cucina di Vencenzo is on Confidential Guides

Recommended by Confidential Guides

The Scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 8/10

    Carpaccio 8, Orecchiette Vincenzo 8.5, Affogato 8

  • Service 4/5

    Relaxed, friendly and clearly a part of the place

  • Ambience 4/5

    A lunchtime spot of which I'd happily be a regular. I imagine evening has a lovely buzz