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Restaurant review: The Fat Italian

Angie Sammons finds new signs of life on the Crosby front

Written by . Published on September 29th 2010.


Restaurant review: The Fat Italian

A FEW years ago, I was surprised to find a long lost hairdresser chum, from way out of town, suddenly appearing with a new shop in Crosby.

The place is a confusion of coiffeuses already, I told her. It is bountiful with barbers, it clamours with colourists; there are scissor sisters setting out their stalls on every street corner. Except they don't have street corners here, they have avenues.

Market forces, she explained. The density of middle income housing is such that there will always be room for one more on top, to take care of, well, things on top. There will never be a surfeit of salons in such a setting, she added with unnecessary alliteration.

Oh but that there were as many cooks, north of the Seaforth flyover, to spoil the people, let alone the broth.

For there is still a dearth of decent places to eat freshly made food in L22-L23. Freshly made, as opposed to freshly heated food from a freezer catering pack.

Where there have been embers of hope, ashes now lie.

In a more innocent age, people raved about the Blues Bar's restaurant in Moor Lane, until that took its gooseberry sauces and Nat King Cole impersonator to Blundell Street, and there was crooning and spooning no more.

Then a Jalon's outpost opened and closed in Waterloo, marked out by one particularly confident chef telling us one Saturday night, over the steak, chips and piano clatter of the Jamie Cullen impersonator, that a Michelin star was not far away.

And the Venus Taverna: I could never remember having a bad meal in there. Or a good one. But neither could any other customer of this defunct Cypriot restaurant whose business boomed when pubs threw out at 11: “Where would you like to sit, Sir?” “Under the table it is, Sir.”

So it is to the Fat Italian that suburban diners are now looking for for a good food fix.

It is not fat in here. This is a size zero room busting at the seams with the Crosby, thrills and cash brigade.

Is it Italian? More catch-all Mediterranean for a catch-all crowd. Pizzas, pastas, fish, steaks, goats cheese salads, olives and bruschetta this and that, with no surprises on the big laminate menu. The only eyebrow-raiser is that they have the capacity to cook all this from scratch in such a swing-a-cat kitchen. As we ponder this, our smiling waitress points us to the nightly changing specials blackboard.

“The specials are really something else,” she tells us. “There's something a little bit extra special about these dishes,” she effused, but not in a Hillary Briss kind of way.

The chalk board was where it was at, then; and you would trust these staff with almost anything. They are accommodating, efficient, warm and friendly. Full marks.

The bacon and scallop salad (£6.50) was good enough, but pricey, sat on some bog standard mixed leaves in a light dressing. There were plenty of tiny molluscs and lardons in the mix, and colourful sprinklings of yellow pepper. Just the thing to be washed down by a Louis Latour 2006 Chablis (£22.95), which was ordered with great expectation and was one of the

most disappointing wines I have tasted in a long time. It was pale, thin and uninteresting. What went wrong? A £2.99 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Asda would wallop these scallops better. The friend agreed, and we did much better with the house red, a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (£11.50).

Warm Chilli Beef on Cold Noodles (£6.95) was tender and tasty, stir fried in sweet chilli sauce and just on the right side of the advertised “warm”, over noodles dressed in sesame oil.

From that specials board: Special Filleto (£19.95) “Prime fillet steak set on a crouton, rubbed with truffle oil (the meat, I assume), served with a creamy Stilton and shallot sauce and asparagus spears.

It certainly looked the part, and if the rich, Hope Street price tag was going to be justified out here in the sticks, a lot was riding on that even richer description. It could have been too much, but actually it reined itself in on the flavours, the fried bread “crouton” retaining a nice crispness and soaking up the mild sauce, while the meat appeared as expertly cooked as it was as effortlessly consumed.

Imagination was running high. Then the bowl of vegetables crept up on the side. Ah yes, our old friends, the steamed broccoli, bobby beans and carrot spears and a couple of skin-on boiled potatoes to bring us back to reality.

Cod Supreme (£15.95) however, didn't want to rein itself in in any way, in fact it was a rush to the head. What was a nicely cooked loin of fish was “served on sautéed oyster mushrooms, red onions, and spinach...” So far so good “...with whole garlic king prawns and a cream, garlic and herb sauce,” it went on. “...Finished with roasted cherry tomatoes and red pesto dressing.”

Whatever it wanted to be, and however it looked, it was initially attacked with gusto. Until ten minutes in, when our waitress presented us with the garlic king prawns. Apologies, they had been forgotten. Left off. No one had noticed. With all that on its plate, it was no surprise.

Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream, raspberries and chocolate sauce (£5.95) was a completely unnecessary treat, as was an amaretto crunch (£5.95), the biscuits topped by vanilla ice cream with the liqueur poured over.

Despite the odd gripe or two, fact is the Fat Italian is a pleasant place to dine with your friends, the food is mostly well prepared, the atmosphere is just what you want from a half decent place to unwind in at the end of your "avenue".

In an area that could easy handle another dozen restaurants who know what they are doing, it may be that the success of this one will turn the tide.

Like the hairdressers, let's hope it's a permanent wave.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Waterloo FunsetDecember 12th 2008.

Good to hear of somewhere decent to go for a meal out in Crosby/Waterloo area. We are not, as this reviewer notes, spoilt for choice

AA Grill's doctorDecember 12th 2008.

Crosby thrills and cash? Nice one. Certainly so far only decent restaurant in Crosby, although music too loud to hear yourself think. Parmesan comes directly grated on your pasta by friendly waiter, although would much prefer Parmesan dish left on table as a matter of course as they do in Italy. Absolutely hate bog standard side dish of vegetables, when will they ever learn that vegetables are part of the composition of the overall dish???The good news for Crosby is that Michael from Birkdale has taken over as chef de cuisine in Pioneer, now that has got the making of a very good restaurant if they can sort their front of house out.

iwannacookDecember 12th 2008.

I recently ate here and have to say the service was tremendous. It's hard to be critical of restaurant that is bouncing on a Tuesday night, especially in the culinary back water of Crosby. But I am struggling to be as enthused about the circa 1970's food. Focaccia quite clearly a pizza base!!! Microscopic fillet steak drowned in sauce. Double dipped chips. Microwave veg. Creme Caramel straight out the chiller display in Costco masquerading as a pannacotta. I wouldn't complain about this on a normal day, but when you are paying around the same price as you would to eat in a starred or multi rosette venue, the question has to be asked. Would Crosby people know good food if a proper restaurant opened there?

DigDecember 12th 2008.

The Tea Rooms, upstairs in The Flashback Boutique, Bold Street. Lovely lovely cafe. Run by the most beautiful proprietor in Liverpool.

cheekablueDecember 12th 2008.

6 out of 10 doesn't sound so great for a £100 meal.

KnowledgeableDecember 12th 2008.

You know Joanne Jennings has left Liverpool One, don't you Gordo?

GordoDecember 12th 2008.

Sounds good, did you take that posh photographer? You know she wants me.

Allan BriscoeDecember 12th 2008.

Try the early doors meals, they are wholesome without being over the top and priced reasonably. Agree that the service is excellent.

Dirty BirkeyDecember 12th 2008.

Not unless you count George and Angela's

PaulDecember 12th 2008.

Sadly, the local definition of a good restaurant is one that gives you loads of chips. The Fat Italian is better than its predecessor but not as good as it could or should be.

Posh PhotographerDecember 12th 2008.

I do want you Gordo but I'm not a 'she'. Is the make up really that convincing?

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