Not just your average Italian


Slow cooked Ox cheek


WE HAD gathered for pre-dinner bottles of Peroni, just to get us in the mood for our Italian evening, and scrolled a little apprehensively through VeroGusto’s menu. I don’t know what the Italian for big spondulicks is but you do need a lot of them to eat here.

Dry-aged fillet of beef £31.80 and that’s without the chips. Mmmm. Pan-fried Gressingham duck breast . . . tempting but £25.50 and no spuds mentioned.

Across the table there was a passable imitation of Mount Etna erupting. “Rocket leaves with Parmesan shavings £6.50 . . . I am not paying that.”

I nodded. “We shall have to pick our way very carefully through the menu,” I said. My companion added: “I don’t mind paying high prices but I want to be blown away for it.”

As it happens we dodged the salad and the duck and we were both gastronomically blown away by some long-cooked, slow-cooked, low-cooked ox cheek.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We haven’t even got through the door of this swish little family-run Italian on Norfolk Row. It looks classy from the outside and the sight of the black waistcoated waiters within confirms it.

Expensive bottles of wine line the back of a long narrow room which once housed the town’s tourist information office but which goes back to Georgian times. This is not your average Italian ristorante.


Delicious octopus

I’ve known this restaurant across two locations and three changes of name ever since Esterina Celva and partner Bruno Saverio opened on Church Street as Gusto-Italiano.

“You should be charging more,” I told Ester back then after a lunch eating her cheerful, happy food. She and Saverio, everyone seems to call him by his surname, did just that when they moved across town, first as Gusto, then as VeroGusto, and went spectacularly upmarket.

The food is exactly like that you would hope to discover away from the tourist traps down one of the smarter streets of an Italian city. You’d come back bursting to tell your friends of your little find. Somehow finding it a few yards from a Sheffield bus stop doesn’t have quite the same glamour but it will save you the price of a plane ticket.

VeroGusto is for most people without big wallets a special occasions type of place which is why, for us, we haven’t been there for a couple of years. But tonight is my wife’s birthday and we are celebrating with friends Craig and Marie Harris, fellow foodies, Italophiles and bloggers.

I fancy portion sizes have crept up a little since our last visit. You longed for more on the plate and deep down all Sheffielders, even the swankiest, treasure Value For Money. We got it here.

Enjoying food comes on so many levels: presentation, smell, texture, flavour and afterthought – reflecting with satisfaction on what you have experienced.

My starter of polipo (£11.95), octopus, would have been the price of a main in many cases. It looked good. The firm meaty flesh was cooked to perfection with a tang of the sea and, as Craig remarked, with just a touch of the grill.

It came with chicory, the biggest pine nuts I have seen, olives and sultanas and a sort of pretzel, a tarollo Napoletano, which I had not previously encountered, rather like a hard biscuit.

Birthday Girl’s fritto misto (£13.85) was squid, prawns and courgette flowers in the wispiest of batter, more negligee than Winceyette pyjamas.

Saverio, now sporting a lockdown beard, had read out some specials including one I liked the sound of, ox cheek with creamed potatoes. Now that’s what caught my attention because at that point I was going for the duck but was mentally grumbling I’d have to pay extra for spuds.

I asked the price. Why don’t restaurants give it automatically when they’re reading out specials? People don’t like to ask but what else do you buy without knowing the cost? I don’t have the bill now but it was cheaper than the duck so I ordered it. Craig must have had the same thought processes and did, too.


Plenty of monkfish here

It was wonderful. The meat had held together but the texture was so soft and tender you could have sucked it up through a straw. And the sauce, a reduction of wine and the bed of vegetables the meat had sat upon, finished with just a hint of sweetness.

It’s a dish you’ll find on many a Modern British menu but you’ll have to look hard to find better. And the mash? Silky, smooth, luxurious. It came with a Parmesan tuille which always scores an extra point with me.

P1000997Marie was clucking happily over her house lasagne (£15.95) “So many layers,” while my wife enjoyed her taglierini pasta with monkfish (£17.50). I hoped neither of them noticed we men had the more expensive dishes.

As you might expect, wines are pricy here but we managed to find a bouncy bottle of Primitivo for about the price of the ox cheek.

We left happy if lighter of wallet. Ester, who has managed to bring up two delightful children while cooking so brilliantly in the kitchen, and front of house Saverio give the city centre restaurant scene a much needed touch of class.

And to think, when at Church Street they were thinking of packing it in until a rave restaurant review turned their fortunes around.



Fritto Misto


And the band played on . . . the wall


Music and sound projected on the wall

OUR table is ready. There’s oil, vinegar, salt, pepper . . . and sanitiser. I must remember not to pour this last on my food as I did the contents of an oil lamp in a gloomy restaurant while not having my glasses.

The cutlery arrives on a linen napkin with the waiter handing it out for us to take without him touching it (although I did wonder how he’d put it on in the first place).

And instead of putting our plates on the table we have to take them from a tray.

It’s a funny old world eating out in the Covid-19 pandemic.

They give it the works at Trippets lounge bar on Trippet Lane, Sheffield. Hand sanitiser at the door, plastic screens over the bar, single use menus, one in-one out for the toilets,  sterilising the tables, lots and lots of handwashing although thankfully owners Debbie and Carl Shaw have been told they don’t need masks or gloves.


Salt, pepper . . . and sanitiser

There’s even a screen on the hatch between kitchen and bar.

You get the feeling they would hose you down with disinfectant if that was what Health & Safety required.

I’ve been itching to write a review since Lockdown was eased but the first restaurant I visited didn’t do any of this: tables already laid, menus re-used, the only sanitiser was in the loos. So while the food was lovely I didn’t write a word, secretly hoping environmental health would give them a talking to.

trippets 2020

Debbie and Carl and a plastic screen

As it happens the council’s health police checked out Trippets on the buzzing first day it reopened and gave them the all clear.

“It’s cost us a fortune,” sighed chef Carl.

Now a health warning of my own. No reviewer with a heart, and certainly not this one, is going to give any restaurant a thumping for the next few months. Businesses which have struggled through the Hell and High Water of Lockdown don’t want any sniping from the sidelines the moment they reopen. Hence my silence over restaurant #1.

Not that Trippets would ever get a thumping. More of a thumbs up and a sigh of relief. It’s still a pleasure to eat here, particularly after owners and customers thought Lockdown spelt The End. Beer was given away, wine returned to the suppliers . . . and there were tears.

But they’re back as before. Almost. Aside from its food, Trippets is known for its gin and jazz. Debbie is Sheffield’s number one ginslinger, forever the Woman in Black, with a spectacular array of bottles on offer. But there is no live music, banned by the authorities just in case a musician blows a treble clef full of coronavirus across the room.

It means the loss of a vital attraction for the restaurant and no work for the musicians. But after a splendid crowdfunding effort by customers Carl and Debbie have rigged up a system which plays and projects specially recorded performances at Trippets on a wall. The musicians (and singer) got paid, the restaurant got its music.


Chocolate and almond slice

Ironically, the loss of the performance space means extra tables, to make up for those lost in the restaurant proper.

In common with so many other restaurants, everything rides on people’s reaction to eating out in the next few months. Will the Great British Public follow Boris Johnson’s call to Eat Out To Help Out? For the Shaws, who opened on Valentines Day 2015 after 15 years at the highly-rated Black Bull in Ashford-in-the-Water, it could be make or break time.

No one should have anything to fear on the health and safety aspect. As to the food, it’s a succession of ‘small plates’ which included excellent boquerones and Gordal olives, spinach, mint and feta parcels with taztziki, rump steak with red pepper salsa and a risotto with crispy prawns – its Indian spices making it seem fresh from a naughty night out with a kedgeree.

Trippets, understandably, is open on a restricted basis at the moment, from Friday to Sunday, including brunch. And plenty of gin.

*89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield S1 4EL. Tel 0114 276 2930. Web

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There are now outside tables