Good Italian restaurants are the sum of their ingredients, and this is very good, says Deanna Thomas
TRE CICCIO doesn’t look much from the outside, or even the inside, at first. The ground floor of Altrincham’s newish Italian restaurant only houses a couple of tables, some giant fridges and a bar. But once you descend the windy staircase, it opens into a tardis-like trattoria.
The restaurant manages to be classic and urban at the same time. White tablecloths and candlelight satisfy more traditional diners, while exposed brick walls, produce lined up in wire cages and paper napkins re-enforce the casual dining element. One room leads onto another, which in turn opens out onto an all-weather terrace.
It’s très chic, but that’s not what Tre Ciccio means. It translates as ‘three chubby friends’, a self-effacing reference to owner Francesco Scafuri and a pair of his portly pals from back in Campania, the region from which the neighbourhood restaurant draws its inspiration.
Tre Ciccio’s reassuringly short menu centres on their wood fired oven, in which they cook variations of Neopolitana pizza and roast chicken. The wine list is similarly brisk, which works well in a bustling family restaurant. It’s not easy reading either a broadsheet newspaper or a long wine list with children in tow. Two choices each of white, red and rosé by bottle or glass keep things simple, plus Prosseco and a handful of cocktails, beers and aperitifs. Catering for the casual majority, wine is served in a tumbler, like soft drinks, but ‘proper’ wine glasses are available on request for purists.
Good Italian restaurants are really the sum of their ingredients; ripe, juicy tomatoes that explode with the intensity of accumulated sunshine, or first press single estate olive oil that has you absent-mindedly trailing a finger round the plate.
Starters here are mainly drink-friendly nibbly bits elevated by the quality of their produce. A quartet of bocconcini fritti (£6.50), posh buffalo mozzarella cheese bites, were pimped up by a garnish of crispy basil and a homemade sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes – renowned for their flavour.
A generous, non-greasy portion of Cuoppo Fritto (£6.95) was Tre Ceccio’s take on the Neopolitan-style street food of lightly coated and fried squid, prawns and whitebait, tumbling artfully from a paper cone into roast garlic mayonnaise.
In English, tonno e fagioli (£8.50) sounds like a complaint you need to see your doctor about, but in the more mellifluous Italian it’s a tuna bean salad – although it would make a good opera title. The elevated price was due to the Delfino tuna from Cetara on the Amalfi coast, rather than John West. It was fine, but needed seasoning – no salt or pepper on the tables.
I understand the words ‘too’, ‘much’ and ‘cheese’, but you’d never find me putting them together in a sentence.
Schiacciata (£3.50) - broken pieces of warm, stretched pizza dough, liberally doused in garlic, rosemary, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, turned out to be a bowlful of joy, taking on smoky layers of flavour from the wood fired oven. ‘Those were something else,’ we told our server as she cleared away the empty receptacle. ‘I know’, she replied, dead straight, because they were.
We’d brought children; more mouths are supposed to mean we can order a wider range of dishes, but both kids honed in on the Margherita (£7.50) and neither was willing to budge.
All pizzas come with blurb nowadays, as a certificate of authenticity about how near to its ancestral home of Naples they are. Tre Ceccio’s are ‘all made from a slow-rising dough made from the finest milled flour, water, salt and fresh yeast. Fermented at an ambient temperature for a minimum of 24 hours before being baked at around 500˚C in our wood- burning oven, resulting in a light, digestible pizza crust.’
It was indeed. They are great, although my husband said something about ‘too much cheese’ on his Amalfi (£11.50), with top-notch anchovies and confit red and yellow cherry tomatoes. I understand the words ‘too’, ‘much’ and ‘cheese’, but you’d never find me putting them together in a sentence.
I chose chicken, which they offer in four differentiations: ‘Inspired by restaurants in southern Italy serving ‘Pollo Scucchito’. Our award winning, farm-reared chicken comes from Johnson and Swarbrick’s, Goosnargh…coated in our own secret marinade then slow-roasted to enhance the flavour whilst retaining tenderness and moisture.’
Pollo Semplice – simple roast chicken (£11 half/£21.95 for two), gave the kitchen nowhere to hide, served ‘Italian style’ on a platter with crispy potatoes cooked in the juices. Lovely. It’s not a polite knife and fork job, ask for extra napkins and just get stuck in with a few contorni (sides) such as crispy zucchini (£2.95), pomodorini e cipolla (£3.50) and friarielli with chilli and garlic (£3.50.) The Italians describe their native seasonal green as broccoli, but it’s nearer to spinach in texture.
An Italian menu without a dolci section is like a face without a nose, so if you have room for expected standards like tiramisu, panna cotta and lemon tart, they’ve got your back. We could only manage a trio of gelato (£4.95) between us. No idea if it was home made, but it was good because no self-respecting Italian would offer sub-standard ice cream.
And Tre Cicchio is self-respecting. It carries throughout a theme of pride and simplicity, reflecting well the family-run, neighbourhood Salerno trattorias it’s based on. On sunny days, if you face inwards and focus on the heavy-accented lilt of the mainly Italian waiting staff, it definitely feels decidedly more Italy than Alty.
Tre Ciccio, 4a Moss Lane, Altrincham, WA14 1BA Tel: 0161 414 0196
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Tuna salad 7, mozzarella 7, Cuoppo Fritto 8, Schiacciata 9, pizza 8, chicken 8, zucchini 8, pomodorini 7, friarelli 7, gelato 7
Definitely had the family-run, independent vibe of people who care
A trendy, tardis-like trattoria