Gordo attends a press dinner and is impressed
In 2004, San Carlo, the premium Italian restaurant opened on King Street West. Carlo Distefano, the owner, took over a site that had failed twice.
A handful of years later the restaurant was consistently the busiest in Greater Manchester and rumour had it that it had made over a million pounds, the first restaurant outside of London to do so in one financial year. By then, Carlo’s son, Marcello, had joined him in the business.
It’s a long time since I’ve walked into a restaurant and felt the buzz
19 years later, the heavy lifting is being done by Marcello, and together the pair have grown a chain of over 26 restaurants across the UK and the world. They are consistently outstanding and prove that chains don’t have to be pasteurised. Run by this passionate Italian family with a firm grip, a smiling outlook, astonishing attention to detail and a near-psychotic love of Italian food, this family always smash it.
August sees the opening of San Carlo Alderley Edge. Last night, I was fortunate enough to be invited for dinner by my pal Joanna Simpson, head of PR, and Marcello, they fired up the whole restaurant for 20 of us, which usually will have 150 covers to fill.
Once again, the family has taken over a site that has failed numerous times over the past few decades along with burning down twice. I have known it since 1972 having grown-up in the area from my early teens; I remember a disco opening in the cellar on the other side of the alley called Sidings, which was owned by Dougie Flood. The legendary pair, Little Tommy and Peter Tut-Tut managed the place. Tut-Tut always looked after me whenever I was coming in.
Alderley Edge, part of the golden triangle including Prestbury and Wilmslow is one of the most expensive areas in the country to live these days yet has the poorest set of restaurants with just one or two exceptions. The high streets are littered with average chains, you might as well be in Croydon.
Walking into the place made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It’s a long time since I’ve walked into a restaurant and felt ‘the buzz’. Dianne Bourne, the matriarch of the MEN, was there. I didn’t get a chance to say hello but I’m sure she will use the term ‘swanky’ in her copy. And this time she will be right.
It’s like walking into the Mirabel in Mayfair, 35 years ago, or sitting down on the terrace on Sunset in Los Angeles at Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s world-famous spot. Chef had delivered a pizza with duck on it. A dish that has been copied all over the world since then.
The food last night was outstanding and went off-chart with the lush veal chop and sage butter. The wines were, as always, fantastic.
Whilst Marcello and Carlo have an awful lot of restaurants to look after I know one thing, this place is even more personal than usual; Marcello, like me, grew up in the area. I’ve never seen him more motivated in the 20 years I’ve known him.
Though I have not yet eaten during normal service, I shall be coming back under my own usual rules, paying and then relating to you, dear reader, what I think of the whole experience without fear nor favour.
However, if I’m not writing this up as one of the best experiences post-covid, I’ll do the walk of shame up the main street.
San Carlo Alderley Edge, London Rd, SK9 7QD
Follow Gordo on Twitter @GordoManchester
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