I RECKON the waiting staff at Tonco, that quirky little restaurant tucked away in the corner of Dyson Place, Sheffield, play Menu Bingo in idle moments.
And the one who draws croquettes usually takes the prize.
It’s the most requested dish most days says our server Simon.
Small wonder. I remember one with courgettes in the summer, all creamy interior inside a crisp, dry shell. So I’ve got my taste buds cued up for the blue cheese and Jerusalem artichoke with a quince aioli. Now there’s a novelty.
But it gets sidestepped by a special described as ” Hog’s head with our own brown sauce. “
It sells itself to me because I am a sucker for pig’s cheek ( if I decipher the restaurantspeak correctly ) and want to compare the sauce to my own homemade concoction.
It’s good, the meat shredded and studded with tiny diced carrot in the trademark soft filling, the exterior a satisfying crunch.
And the brown sauce gets my approval. Ten years ago every chef around was making it and it’s good to see at least one kitchen giving it a reprise. This is made with prunes, apples but no onions to give people who can’t eat alliums a shout out, according to the chef.
Tonco, run by Joe Shrewsbury and Florence Russell ( Jo and Flo) and named after a long-forgotten Barnsley soft drink, also does a nifty line in ravioli. I have fond memories of a summery one filled with goats cheese last summer.
Today’s has a roast beetroot filling, pleasant enough, but there are wedges of beetroot garnishing the dish and, even more, pallid yellow beetroot which barely makes a contribution, so this is rather overdoing things.
Wisps of cavolo nero just irritate but roast hazelnuts provide crunch against good firm pasta. This time the goats cheese is outside, as a sauce.
Tonco still has its lunchtime special offer of three dishes for £22 and the house wines are fairly priced. There always seems to be something to intrigue on this menu even if this diner is not necessarily entirely bowled over.
I always associate Tonco as having a bit of a thing for turnips. Perhaps beetroot is the new turnip here.
BACK IN the Sixties as a young reporter for the Beccles & Bungay Journal I would be sent to cover village shows.
There would invariably be a tent or at least a table full of homemade jams and jellies, pickles and preserves, usually made by stout matrons from the Women’s Institute.
All very motherly and middle class but never for one moment did I guess this might one day be hip.
Then it was raspberry jam and pickled onions, these days it’s more likely to be a kombucha or kefir (fermented drink) bubbling up for prizes.
I am at Hideaway, a dishevelled former factory, the White Rose Works, in Eyre Lane, Sheffield for the city’s second Pickle Fest.
I can give 30 or 40 years on the next oldest person there, and rather less hair, as people gather for workshops, talks, browse a few stalls, buy food or enter one of the several categories to have their prized jam, chutney, sauce, pickles or ferments to be judged in a mass taste test later that day.
I bring along three entries, two for the non- hot sauce category: Pontack, made with elderberries, and a brown fruit sauce from prunes and apples, plus a chutney from foraged windfall apples in my neighbourhood.
I’m delighted to find these are the first entries if you don’t count the jar entered last year which no one could open and has been resubmitted this year. Tough competition.
The festival is organised by a loose group of people called Social Pickle, explains Lisa Marriott, one of the organisers who, like other young women, is wearing a fetching sash with the organisation’s name.
It gives the event, for an old-timer like me, the slightly disconcerting air of a Sixties beauty contest with Miss Pickles on display although of course the real beauties are the jars of Green Bean Chunky Ketchup and evil- looking Carrotchanga for sale at the pay-as-you-feel stall.
“We started during Lockdown preparing surplus ingredients for meals for our Food Hall Project ( on Brown Street) and realised there was a lot of energy around,” she says.
What couldn’t be used immediately was pickled and preserved.
“Cider vinegar was our first project, sold in local shops, and we’ve expanded into weekly Glut Clubs.”
I’m impressed. They are not just sitting back and waiting for surplus food to come in. Some are going out and foraging for it.
With things like sauerkraut, kimchis and kombuchas the Fermentation Generation is a lot more adventurous and sophisticated than its grannies. In fact, they’re making a bit of a fizz.
I couldn’t stay for the judging and I’ve been waiting at home for the telephone to ring and tell me if I’d won a category ( not that they were overwhelmed with entries ).
To pass the time I took home one of the jars of Carrotchanga. ” We fermented the carrot to make a Ketchup then added other stuff,” someone said. It tastes how it looks, wicked.
And did they have a serving suggestion? ” Put it on your chips.”
WE’VE BEEN eating out quite a bit lately: on a roll you might say plenty of good food to enjoy.But rather than bore you with a bite by bite rundown here are selected mouthfuls.
Let’s start with dinner at newly opened Rosmarino on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, an Italian in what had been the premises of a Portuguese eatery and before that a Polish one which had a dozen soups on the starters).
It’s their first restaurant together for newly-married Abdellatif, from Casablanca, and his Anglo-Italian wife Lidia. Abdel opened Olive with his brother on Ecclesall Road a couple of years back while Lidia’s family had La Terrazza (now Bella Donna) on Sharrowvale Road.
Unlike many Italian restaurants the place does not feel overcrowded with plenty of space and elbow room between the tables. “We took quite a few out,” Lidia told me.
We ate with foodie friends Craig and Marie Harris, who know a thing about Italian food. My starter of calamari was a wee bit chewy but had a lovely jalapeno and lime jam to go with it (£8.50).
A main of ravioli with a gentle hit of black truffle (£15.95) impressed with its good, firm pasta and lively mushroom and parmesan sauce. We topped things off with a home made tiramusi made, surprisingly, with lemon drizzle cake. It worked!
On to Tonco in Dyson Place, which always makes me think of turnips because they once featured heavily on its very esoteric menu. It always seem to faintly annoy me: must be the irritating Pud-Pud to signal the dessert section!
But a family lunch here was terrific, in particular some courgette and Spenwood cheese croquettes (£6), crispy shells enclosing melting interiors, hogget meatballs wrapped a littlepointlessly in vine leaves (£8) and quite lovely summery goats cheese ravioli in a very simple but effective lemon butter and little gem sauce. Oh and the fig leaf custard tart (they were making those fig leaves work!) with bergamot puree was a great hit, too.
Next stop was a lunch at Trippetts in Trippet Lane, run by one-woman gin Wikipedia (and dispenser) Debbie Shaw and her husband Carl, who can always produce something special with his small plates menu.
Stupidly, I forgot to record the gins but did appreciate a trio of samosas and a duo of sliders (minii hamburgers) made from venison and beef in dinky little buns. I enjoyed the contrast in textures between the two meats.
Finally to The Broadfield on Abbeydale Road where it is always advisable to book, even on a Tuesday night, because the restaurant area gets rammed.
The Broadfield has a better-than-pub-food menu with classics such as home made pies and a Mittel-European-style roast ham hock of the kind you’d find in Prague.
That’s got a lot of calories (the amounts are listed on the menus) so I thought again and had the bangers and mash. Well banger because there was just one but homemade and what a plonker! It was very tasty, the pork helped along with ginger, a very old traditional spice, particularly with bacon. I was glad I chose it. And here’s the picture.
YOU have to duck under a washing line of pink cycling vests to enter a small back room. One wall is plastered with pages from Italian sporting papers, the ceiling looks as if it is going to fall down any minute and old coffee sacks are curtains at the window.
There are three long benches, seating six at a friendly pinch, and some high stools. On the back wall, on the way to the toilet, is a cartoon of a cardinal wth a speech bubble saying “Holy cannoli,” a slogan copied on waiting staff shirts. This place looks like fun.
Food arrives on white tin camping plates with blue rims placed on brown paper serving mats, bread is deliivered in brown paper bags and hot coffee in glasses without a handle.
There’s music playing, happy chatter and a waiter in a flat cap is bringing round a tray of cakes to tempt you with that coffee. One thing North Town has got in bucketfuls is atmosphere.
We’ve all heard or dreamed about such places, maybe even been to one, tucked away down some unassuming back street in a hot Italian town or city, and come back with travellers tales of great nights out.
But you don’t have to go as far as Naples or Milan. There’s one on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield.
The oddly named North Town (don’t ask, it’s a long story, about taking over a previous business, even odder because the last thing it sounds is Italian and it’s on the south side of town), opened up pre-pandemic but I’ve only just got round to visiting. Silly me.
It’s the concept of Gian Bohan, one half of the gastro duo with Maurizio Mori who brought us Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road, who wanted to recreate that experience. “You can find them down little out of the way streets,” he says.
This time his partner is Pasquale Pollio,the chap in the hat, and we meet him twice, once at lunchtime and then again when we return for a more substantial tea.
The decor looks spot on – minimum money spent for the maximum effect, including the ceiling. “that’s how we found it when redecorating. This is used to be a guitar shop,” adds Gian.
The heart of North Town is its bakery, which powers much of the menu. mainly ciabattas for a range of sandwiches, to eat in or take away, as well as a Puglian rosemary and rock salt bread. “We bake three, sometimes four times a day,” says Pasquale.
There are pizzas, of course, but the ovens are so busy baking the breads they are available only at certain times.
At lunch we have a meatball panino (£7.50) and a classico – prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella (£6), both excellent, generous and tasty. The meat is lamb with preserved lemon, mint, chilli and ground almond for extra flavour, and it comes with melted taleggio.
We come back on St Patrick’s Day, wondering whether Gian will be sporting a shamrock (he is half-Irish, once running an Irish cafe further up the road nearer town) but he’s away in New York.
This time we’re here for the pasta: a gutsy lasagne (£9.50) with a ragu of pork, beef and sausage, and paccheri scoglio (£12), pasta with seafood, the mere mention of which makes our waitress screw up her face with delight. I expect she does this with all the dishes but she’s right.
The pasta, thick, slightly rubbery rings, are partnered with mussels and clams and finished with pangrattato, basically fried herby garlic breadcrumbs as an Italian ‘poverty kitchen’ subsitute for pesto because the parmesan was too expensive. It’s so convincing I have to tell myself it’s not the real thing.
It’s this and the broth, which I soaked up with a saved slice of bread (although they provide a spoon) which helps makes this dish for while the clams are good the mussels are nothing to write home about.
The cannoli certainly are. Even if you didn’t know you could tell they weren’t made in a factory: crisper, irregular and generously filled. Coupled with a glass of hot coffee you can’t go wrong. This place is right up my street.
North Town re-opens on Wednesday after a short holiday. Normal opening, Wed-Sun.
THERE were tears, there were hugs and there were last orders of king prawns and fried rice – then a much loved Chinese takeaway was calling it a day.
The New Hing Lung on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, was full of customers and Thank You cards last Sunday (February 27) as the family, headed by matriarch Xue, decided to finish for good on her retirement, aged 66. It’s been sold on.
Customer Howard Greaves, who with his wife Elsa has been a customer for over 20 years, was one of those saying goodbye. “The standard has always been very high and the prices incredible low,” he enthused.
Although he recommended it to friends they shuddered because the appearance outside belied the food inside.
The humble little takeaway is the latest in a line of well-known Chinese eateries to disappear recently. So has the red fronted Dim Sum on London Road, run by brother and sister Sang and Tina Wan. This was a place noted for its dim sum dishes as well as a conventional menu.
They opened the place, previously Mr Yun’s tiny sandwich shop, in 2003 and later expanded into neighbouring premises.
Sang arrived from Hong Kong aged 14 and was sent to High Storrs School, where, he says, the teachers simply ignored him. He left a year later and gained his education in a leading Manchester Chinese restaurant.
I was sorry to have missed a last meal there although knew the Wans were looking for a buyer. Sang, seeing the rise of New Era Square, had long predicted the demise of Chinese restaurants on the London Road axis.
Also gone, and I can’t tell you when, is the famous Zing Vaa restaurant on The Moor. The tiny entrance, now boarded up, led down some stairs to a large basement restaurant. We went a couple of years ago but the cavernous restaurant was cold, bare and empty so we left before ordering.
It was quite the place in its heyday. Founded by Sheffield-born Harry Yun in 1958, whose family ran the Yun Bun Laundry in Heeley, the restaurant had a long-standing rivalry with the Golden Dragon (now the Wong Ting) round the corner in Matilda Street.
Harry, who had a pronounced Sheffield accent, liked to stand at the foot of the stairs and surprise guests by saying, seemingly incongruously, “Oreyt owd lad?”
Times change. People move on. But all three of these premises were held in affection by local people. Most of the time they just disappear from local history without a fanfare. So this, in its way, is a last goodbye.
WELL THAT certainly beats a bag of winkles, Mr Brown!
We’re off for afternoon tea but not as you know it. No dainty cucumber sandwiches, sausage rolls and French fancies for us but cod in batter, some juicy mussels, scallops atop pork belly, prawns, halibut and salmon, and the very tip of a lobster’s tail.
And if that sounds fishy it is because we are in Cary Brown and Gracie Anderson’s new restaurant Neon Fish on Archer Road, Sheffield (Marco@Milano as was) to sample what is billed as ‘Afternoon Tea from the Sea.’
It’s a clever idea. For most of us ordering a fruit de mer is pushing the boat out and it costs a whacking £95 for two here.
An afternoon fish tea is in shallower waters, a scaled-down version (at £40), light on lobster, apart from that tip, minus oysters but with bits borrowed from all over the menu plus a few extra tasty morsels.
If you don’t count fish and chips the nearest I’ve come to this is a plate of whelks or take-home bag of winkles (pin not included).
It might be cut-price but they do it in style: It is served on tiered plates with Carr’s Sheffield-made silver fish cutlery. How’s that for swank?
It looked lovely and it was. This may well become the Saturday afternoon rival to Cary’s legendary Sunday lunchtime roast meat platter.
Let’s start from the top because we did, with some generous pieces of cod in wispy batter on the uppermost tier.
They shared the plate with sweet, briefly cooked scallops on warm, pressed slow-roasted pork belly, surf and turf heaven in miniature. This is something you savour slowly, relishing the contrast in textures.
We saved a smoky mackerel pate in a jar until later. We wanted the white anchovies with chilli jam, a riff on the chef’s much-copied monkfish dish. It works just as well.
Moving down, the next tier held whorls of smoked salmon and halibut, the latter softer in texture with plenty of smokiness, and those lobster tips, the only items which didn’t live up to their promise.
The lowest tier had two very tasty king prawns, a pot of Atlantic prawns, crab meat in mayonnaise with julienne of apple and a tiny pot of pickled mussels.
The flesh was tender not firm, as well it might be since they had been steamed not 30 minutes before, cooled and briefly pickled in a liquor so good that afterwards, checking no one was looking, I swigged it down.
I didn’t need to. There wasn’t anyone else apart from my wife until a man wearing a pink top hat with a ticket in the brim walked in at five o’clock.
No, I haven’t smoked something and fallen down a rabbit hole: it happened (sometimes it is better not to ask) but there was certainly something Alice in Wonderland about our booking.
We’d tried the weekend before, only to be told the website was wrong so booked the following Saturday for 3pm. A last minute check online told us Neon Fish didn’t open until 5pm (website wobbles again) so that explains why we had the place to ourselves.
We were, in fact, the first to order the afternoon tea and it won’t officially be available until October 16. Don’t go thinking we got a freebie as guineapigs because we paid full whack. Top picks: the mussels, anchovies and scallops.
Gracie, who you may remember from the Tickled Trout, Barlow, leads delightful front of house service and Cary still cooks like a dream. You might have to twist his arm to get the fish tea sooner, though.
BEFORE Covid struck there was a hit play in the West End called The Play That Goes Wrong, in which Murphy’s Law rules supreme. Actors miscue, scenery falls down, things explode. It’s a real hoot.
It happens in the hospitality business too. Welcome to The Meal That Goes Wrong.
In this case it has happened early on in a restaurant’s life when things have still to be tweaked, staff to settle into routines and systems work the way installers promised
So although things went wrong on our night at the new Cornerstone restaurant in buzzing Dyson Place, just off Sharrowvale Road, I still thoroughly recommend it. Because by the time you go they will have tweaked big time.
You very certainly will be charmed by the 100-cover eaterie on two floors in the former Mission Hall, which had been empty and dark for years until developer Martin Flowers came along.
A building where the congregation once raised the roof in praise to God has had it raised yet again (and the floor lowered) to make enough space for tables on two levels.
And they probably won’t keep you waiting for an hour for food, bar bread and olives, and then arrive with your main course because the electronic ordering system has pinged your starters into Kingdom Come.
And, hopefully, the food won’t be tepid because it has waited on the pass too long under lights fitted too high up to keep things warm.
Nor, fingers crossed, will the fire alarm go off for five minutes because the barbecue in the kitchen is sending flames sky high.
This was the sort of night, to be honest, I would have given my right arm for when reviewing professionally because the story really writes itself. People, being what they are, like a touch of calamity. And it was my job to tell it how it was.
Well, I am a blogger now who pays his own way (unless where stated) and this is not one of those anodyne blogs, you’ve seen them, where Everything Is Simply Wonderful.
Folks, that’s not how life works.
Cornerstone is the project of brothers Richard and Michael Massarella, third generation members of the well-known catering family which runs a cafe empire across the North. It was grandfather Ronnie who started it off, building upon an icecream business developed by his own grandfather who emigrated from Italy over 150 years ago.
So they are not rookies in the business.
I’d booked for four of us online and a few days before the meal the agency sends a breezy email checking we are still going. Good idea to stop the no-shows. Then it suggests clicking a link to check the menu on the restaurant website. Bad idea. It’s not on there.
“We are still tweaking the website,” says Richard when we find our table, handing out flimsy paper menus because they are seeing what works and what doesn’t before they commit themselves to laminate.
The place is open all day and Massarellas don’t need any lessons on providing café dishes. Where the brothers have raised the eyebrows of older members of the family is angling the afternoon and dinner menu to World Food.
So while it nods at their Italian origins with pasta and chicken Milanese it goes progressively East with halloumi, harissa, falafel, kofta,Korean chicken and even a Vietnamese dish, cocking a cheeky snook at the Vietnamese restaurant across the block.
The building itself features bare brick walls with big chapel windows on one side looking onto the table-filled forecourt with heaters. Banquette seating runs round the walls while down the centre is a wooden arrangement which looks and feels, according to the ladies of the party, like old tram seats: fair enough for a five minute journey, not comfortable enough for a two hour meal.
A new metal staircase leads a low raftered first floor where, incidentally, three of the four unisex toilets are.
We order padron peppers with chorizo, sesame prawns with a dip and watermelon with whipped goats cheese but they never come. Our waitress has typed them into a tablet but they disappear into the ether.
We nibble at decent olives and bread (with no plates) and wait for them to arrive. And wait. Suddenly the alarm goes off just after a burst of flames in the partly open kitchen. Our pal Craig thinks it’s his peppers being barbecued.
There is a conclave of staff clustered at the controls for seemingly five minutes and a cheer goes up when it is finally turned off. I notice Richard leads a round of applause and he gets five stars for chutzpah. I like him.
When our mains arrive we vaccilate. The waitress says she will re-order our starters and they go back to the pass. But we worry we will get the same dishes back later and scrap the starters and recall the mains.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady in possession of a fish does not want it with bones. Or if it is, the menu should say. My wife’s Vietnamese monkfish was served not as a fillet, nor as a steak, but completely on the bone. It was heavily spiced but the heat made up for the food being barely warm.
My lamb koftas were pleasant enough, served on a flatbread with labneh ( strained yoghurt) with rather too much coleslaw.
Craig was quids in, raving enthusiastically about his flatiron steak which, tweaking the menu himself, he had served with a broad bean, pea and feta salad, swapped from another dish. It, too, was lukewarm.
To be fair they offered us free desserts but we declined, perhaps a bad move as I have been told they are good. So Richard scrapped the alcohol bill. We liked him even more. Our bill was just over £70.
And Cornerstone had lots right: a relaxed, interesting menu, pleasant staff who kept to their stations so you weren’t being asked the same questions by different people, and a good atmosphere.
It’s not always right on the night, particularly when a reviewer is there. Murphy’s Law again. If things can go wrong, they will.
However, the runes are good for Cornerstone. I’ll go back. A tweak and a prayer should get them there.
IberiCo, that lovely little Spanish deli off Ecclesall Road, is on the move . . .
THE FiRST time I met Daniel, the owner of Spanish deli and tapas bar IberiCo on Hickmott Road, his Northern accent with a slight Sheffield twang led me to think he was a local lad with a liking for that country’s food.
Then when he effortlessly slipped into Spanish to greet an expat customer I thought ” By ‘eck, he’s got the lingo!”
He certainly has. But it’s our lingo. Although he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Spaniard – he is tall, pale and laid back rather than short, dark and animated – Daniel Marquez Pedrosa is from Cadiz although, as he will tell you, his family comes from Cordoba. The city apparently had an influx of German immigrants a century or so ago.
He’s been in Sheffield since September 2014, arriving under the Erasmus scheme to study English at university. He obviously liked what he saw although South Yorkshire couldn’t be more different to the South of Spain. But he wasn’t so keen on teaching, his job after university, so looked around for something different.
The shop, a combination of grocery, coffee bar and cafe, opened last August Bank Holiday and brought an exotic flavour to the already vibrant mix of places on Hickmott and Sharrowvale Road, the lively area off equally Cosmopolitan Ecclesall Road.
While it has become a favoured destination for locals lured by the tempting sight of hams, hanging from the hook and on the cradle, it is also a rendezvous for expat Spanish, of whom there seem to be many in Sheffield.
“The Spanish say prices are higher than back home but they would be, wouldn’t they?” he jokes.
Until he speaks his native language you’d never guess he was Spanish although there’s a little clue on the menu with its idiosyncratic spelling of ‘ sandwhiches.’!
IberiCo almost never happened. The shop had been earmarked as a greengrocers but that fell through. Daniel had earlier been interested and got a call from the landlord.
The deli is the heart of the business, stocked with hams, cheeses and boxes and tins and packets of Spanish produce – everything from anchovies to tins of beans and excellent olive oil.
It won’t be there much longer. IberiCo is moving . . .but not far. August 13 has been pencilled in for transfer to the former premises of Olive & Joy in Dyson Place.
The larger premises will allow for a wider range of deli items and increase the offer not only from the shelves and counter but on the table.
For Daniel the move into bigger premises so soon wasn’t part of his business plan. “But you have to take your chances when you can. When we first opened this place didn’t look as it does now.”
Daniel, already Senor Jamon to local foodies, has made the little shop a favourite with many as an enoteca or bodega where they can sit down with a plate of meats or cheeses with a bowl of olives, glass of wine and bread from Phil at nearby Perfectionery. Seats are limited although in warmer weather they spread outside.
With more room in Dyson Place there will be tables inside and out. “There will be much more food. We will have a young Spanish chef and she has written a very good menu. It’s going to add a lot to Dyson Place,” he says.
Expect the transition to take a few weeks before it gets fully into gear. There will still be those plates of meats and cheeses plus a menu for more casual dining.
And as IberiCo moves out another food business moves in, upmarket patisserie Gilt from Abbeydale Road.
IT CAN’T just be me, surely? I am at the butchers ordering a nice leg of lamb for Sunday dinner when I catch him about to saw the knuckle off.
” Whoa! Stop! That’s the best bit,” I cry and the knuckle hangs limply but still attached. My brothers and I used to fight over who was going to get that. . . as well as a teaspoonful of the blood that leaked from the joint into the runnels of the carving dish.
“It tastes so sweet,” I add and he nods. ” But our customers don’t like it and don’t want to pay for it.”
I sigh – not just because we now have a generation or two who have no idea how to use and eat the grobbly bits of meat – but because he should know me better.
It’s here I come to order breast of lamb because, if it sells at al, it goes to the dog, or give notice I’ll have some cheaper tail-end beef fillet because it’s going to be sliced up for a stroganoff. No point in paying good money for the meat further up the joint. It’ll taste the same.
I try and buy all my meat from a butcher, grobbly bits and all, but cry inside at supermarkets when I see labels telling me the innards of chickens and turkeys are not included “for your convenience.” He or she who cannot make a giblet gravy does not deserve the name of cook.
I am not going to rant on here that if you are a carnivore you respect the animal by eating most or all of it and not just the ‘best bits.’ I like to eat as if there’s a war on and it’s waste not, want not.
I have noticed big loins of pork for sale at The Moor Market for very reasonable prices – from £10-£14. Now one of these will give me some home-made middle cut bacon, spiced the way I like it, plus I can cut up the rest for a roast loin joint for two and still have enough meat left over for a stew or curry.
But hang on,, all these loins have been trimmed of skin and most of the fat. I want my bacon with the rind on because even in my favourite butchers’ it’s been taken off, doubtless for my own ‘convenience.’
This is part of the reason I make my own bacon, as you can see here. I like bacon rinds. They provide fat to fry the rashers and are great to eat crozzled up. Think mini pork scratchings.
So I have to ask for a joint specially cut with the skin left on but boned. I mutter something about people not knowing their meat, expecting the butcher to cluck in sympathy. He doesn’t. ” People like it this way.”
Now, wait for it, this’ll make you laugh: the joints are sold with ‘crackling for free. It’s only the skin and fat which has already been taken off!
While I’m about I ask for the bones. They will still have meat on and make a nice supper, marinated then roasted slowly in a barbecue sauce as spare ribs.*
So that’s bacon, a stew and a nice greasy gnaw on some grobbly bits from one piece of pork for under a tenner.
Call it nose-to-tail eating or think there’s a war on, it doesn’t matter. I know what butcher Cpl Jones from Dads Army might say: “They don’t like it up ’em!” Or should that be, in ’em?
* These are my free spare ribs from the loin of pork. There’s not really a recipe, I marinated them overnight in a mixture of soy and black bean sauces, ketchup, Sheffield Relish, coriander powder and so on, then roasted at 150C for three hours under tin foil. The pan was a bit dry but a few tablespoons of water, some honey and tomato paste stirred in made a lovely sauce.
AT THE age of 57 Marco Giove has seen all the varieties a life in Italian catering in Sheffield can offer – so he is going to take it a little easier from now on.
“I never saw my children growing up because I was always working. I want to spend more time with my five grandchildren,” he says.
Which is one of the reasons top city restaurant Marco @ Milano is no more.
After 21 years in the former Archer Road cop shop Brindisi-born Marco is handing over the keys to friend and fellow chef Cary Brown, who will reopen the venue as Neon Fish.
Marco, second generation of a Sheffield-Italian catering family founded by his late father Marco Senior, was one of those who took local Italian cooking up a notch or two from cheap and cheerful to fine dining.
After learning his trade in the family restaurant he had run Rossi’s from 1990 to 1995 before being approached by Nonnas duo Maurizio Mori and Gian Bohan to manage the venue, then called Milano, which they owned with Robert Brady. “I said no but I’d buy the business off them,” he recalls.
It was a bit of a struggle at first but he persevered and with head chef Franco Esposito’s cooking the place got noticed, nationally as well as locally: In The Guardian’s Italian Top 10 and the Independent’s Top 15 for alfresco dining – there is a beautiful terrace out the back overlooking Millhouses Park.
Then came the Pandemic. “I’d already been thinking about going back to casual dining, pizza and pastas, before it happened. I started doing takeaways during lockdown and found it was easier,” he says. And that’s when he decided not to return.
His Facebook and Instagram pages have been full of appreciative comments from customers and mournful messages and he says that is what he will remember from his time there – diners who have turned into friends. But they haven’t completely lost him.
He is continuing the takeaway business so the Marco @ Milano name will continue. He might be quitting the Milano kitchen but he’s just crossing the road to take up residence in Hazel’s Quality Catering kitchen. And the collection point will remain, the garage forecourt opposite the restaurant.
Ironically, it doesn’t look as if there will be a third generation Giove family in catering. Things are a lot different now than when he and his brother Vincenzo, with whom he worked, were growing up.
“We didn’t have a choice. They were different times. We worked in the restaurant as a family. I was put into the kitchen at nine and Vincenzo was put on the floor with my Mum. We have not imposed anything on ours (he and his wife Yasmin have three daughers who have gone their own ways).
Marco, who also got a couple of local awards for best restaurant of the year, has been equally at home front of house as well as in the kitchen but, I wondered, which gave him the bigger buzz? He doesn’t have to think about it: cooking.
Now cooking by himself for the takeaway trade he will still be getting a buzz. And from his grandchildren.
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