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

Lunch with Gusto!

taglierini with mussels

taglierini with mussels


Ester Celva pats her bosom. Little daughter Vittoria will have her first birthday shortly and she is now on solids. So a change of lunch for the baby means lunchtimes are back for all fans of VeroGusto, the very Italian restaurant on Norfolk Row, Sheffield.

It’s been closed for lunch for a year because Ester cannot breastfeed and chef at the same time but a tweet this week alerted customers they are open again. Originally Ester and her partner Bruno Saverio were just going to do Saturdays but she changed her mind at the last minute.

It was a short menu when we called in on Thursday but more choice is promised as the kitchen gears up. The place wasn’t full – news hadn’t quite got around and the website hadn’t been updated – but what there was was excellent, as any look at TripAdvisor will tell you.

Our visit solved a mystery. We hadn’t seen waiter Michael Pilarski for a time and assumed he’d moved on but he walked out of the kitchen in chef’s whites. “It’s much more interesting,” he says.

If you’re Googling the reviews bear in mind that this place started out as Gusto-Italiano in Church Street in 2007 then moved to Norfolk Row and dropped the ‘Italiano,’ becoming VeroGusto last year after a legal letter from a restaurant chain.

The kitchen was in a generous mood and gave us complimentary flatbreads, drizzled with balsamic and sandwiched with ham, before our mains arrived. Both were an object lesson in how Italian cooking can make a few excellent ingredients perform to the utmost.

I had pappardelle di manzo (£11.95), broad strips of delicious egg pasta with a deep, rich bolognese ragu. This pasta wasn’t home made but my wife’s taglierini cozze was, pasta moistened with a delicately flavoured broth of sweet little mussels (also £11.95).

The wines were good, in particular a strawberryish Segreto Rosso, a house red at £5.80 for a small glass. My wife had a crisp, dry Vementino for £6.50.

They make their own desserts here. Of course. We shared a plate of three sticky and juicy rum babas (£5.95) with a couple of proper Americanos (£2.50 each). The bill came to £47.50 for lunch and yes, that is pricy, as TripAdvisor reviewers, say but it is a trip to Italy for an hour or two without the cost of the air fare.

My review last year for the Sheffield Star is here

VeroGusto, 12 Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2PA. Tel: 0114 276 0004. Web:



pappardelle bolognese

pappardelle bolognese

P1010324 VeroGusto