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Sweet nothings: Paolo & Donato's

A big, fat, authentic, Italian feast for an Angie Sammons tenner

Written by . Published on February 7th 2012.

Sweet nothings: Paolo & Donato's

AT the risk of sounding like a green-inker, which is someone who is compelled to write letters to the local newspaper (a real reader that is, and not a sub editor who has to fill all the empty white space around it): who remembers when Williamson Square was the centre of the city? 

Paolo%26#38%3BDonato48Who can recall when the streets off it, and across Whitechapel and Stanley Street, formed the culinary interesting bit: The Pancake Kitchen, Villa Italia, Armadillo, La Grande Bouffe, Don Pepe's and Atik's to name but a tiny few. Who remembers them? Then again, who remembers sub editors?

Save for a few bland Metquarter chains and Delifonseca, nothing much of note has happened, in an area dominated by uninspiring tea shops and fast food outlets, for years. 

No, it all moved, and much of the independent Italian action is now centred around Bold Street and Duke Street where you will find the Glaswegian Crollas and their cousins, the Margiottas, running successful, "upmarket" outfits like The Italian Club (and Fish) and Il Forno. 


So the last thing you expect is to find the bulk of the staff of the latter - head chef (Paolo) and his deputy (Antonietta), the restaurant manager (Donato, Paolo's brother) and hostess (Mariana) included - having a wildly animated Latin exchange when you peer into Paolo & Donato's on the corner of the square and Richmond Street. 

Who remembers when this was a Sayers? Because it was. Forever. 

Another thing you don't expect to find is Robert de Niro waiting. That's because it's self service. Nevertheless, more than a handful of the customers are talking Italian. 

Paolo%26#38%3BDonato41What you will find is a huge variety of, quite frankly, stunning cakes and pastries, made on a premises which, so recently, had baked no more than anaemic sausage rolls. "Pasticceria", which it now says on the sign, is not inviting you in for a 90p steak bake.

Instead, they have exported one of the unique things about Il Forno: a gelateria that makes all its own ice cream, right there. 

Things that do not exist back up the hill reign here in abundance:  weighty pizza slices for under two quid, and a big range of authentic Italian panninis for £3. These do not say “fine dining”, but they are pretty fine, at least according to a table of silently munching margherita people whose opinion I canvassed. 

If ice cream won awards, what would these
be up for? The Churner Prize? 

For this is a model based on proper Italian lunchtime delis, so don't act completely surprised when you discover the cutlery, glasses and containers are disposable. 

These are what keep the food prices down, but Paolo and Donato have not cut corners otherwise. Handsome, white, wooden furniture, window bar stools, white tiles and no music give the place an air of clean, calm contemplation. Outside, pandemonium is reigning, courtesy of a man with a megaphone and a message. Should you wish, you can find out what it is by taking a table on the terrace.

Paolo%26#38%3BDonato25The most expensive item on the menu is the £5 lasagne. It comes in a plastic covered tray in which four layers of baked pasta, ragu and bechamel have been introduced and have mingled, their conversation bubbling away with a life of its own.  It fails to remind me how lasagne is a big, fat treat, and that to embrace it without ceremony, on a Monday afternoon, is madness.

We should stop now, but, instead, this lasagne indulges all the senses. It might be the ultimate solace food, but it's a real faff to make and here it has generously given itself up on a plate (well not quite).

It could have been a touch hotter in the middle: however this is coming from someone whose mouth (and pocket) has only just recovered from the solar blast of the same dish at San Carlo a week ago. The accompanying salad - some undressed, crisp lettuce leaves, was let down by tomato slices that would have been riper back home and really should have been here. 

Paolo%26#38%3BDonato46“Italian tradition with passion” it says on the menu, and the cakes mark Paolo & Donato's out, as does Mariana's enthusiasm and knowledge when I ask her to tell me what to have.

Torte Amaretto was a beautiful thick confection of creamy caramel and sponge, and there isn't space here to detail the sheer list of what's possible, or to do it justice. 

Most are £2.80, which means, with an excellent espresso (£1.30) and a Brio blue fizzy water (Italian of course, £1.20) you can easily feast here for a tenner. Or, if you have Pavarotti-type appetite, three tenners.

If you are one of those people who will only go near ice cream if it is the real deal, then you are in luck, or should that be lick? There are all sorts of chocolate and fruit variations on the go at any time. Just one cornetto at £1.80, up to three flavours for £3.20.


And they are superb. If ice cream won awards, what would these be up for?  The Churner Prize? 

They will also make these into milk shakes and they sell home made lollies too. 

Home made lollies? Who remembers home made lollies? Nobody in Liverpool surely.

I feel a letter coming on. I think I have a bit of a scoop.

You can follow Angie Sammons on Twitter here

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. Critics dine unannounced and the company picks up their bills - never the restaurant, never a PR company.

Breakdown:Food 7.5/10
Service 4/5
Ambience 4/5
Address:Paolo & Donato's
24 Richmond Street,
Williamson Sq,
Liverpool, L1 1EF.
Tel: 0151 708 7117.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it; 6-9 get a DVD; 10-11 if you must; 12-13 if you’re passing; 14-15 worth a trip; 16-18 very good to exceptional; 19-20 As good as it gets.

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

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

Sounds nice! Tell you what I sorely miss- Buca di Bacco. 3 course lunch for £7 and free Flake with your coffee. Wish they'd reopen..

PieroFebruary 7th 2012.

I wish the Italian Bistro on Hardman Street had never closed. Cheap wine never in a bottle, just big jugs rough as f*ck. That was just the women

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

This sounds great, but you so nearly lost when you described the Italian Club Fish as upmarket. Oh dear: the place is an embarrassment to anyone who knows good Italian food.

PieroFebruary 7th 2012.

Italian Club Fish isn't meant to be Italian. Unless you think pollack and chips is Italian. 60 Hope St does better fish and chips, and the staff are just as surly in both

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2012.

Williamson Square? Who knocked down the Union Cold Storage?

Mike DFebruary 21st 2012.

Bellini's on Whitechapel is a good Italian addition....

CarolFebruary 29th 2012.

'Post my rant' is a dangerous thing to allow people to do, because all it does, is allow people to post their over-inflated opinions. I think the Italian Club fish is fantastic. I think constructive criticism is good, but not vitriol. If you think their food is an embarrassment, I would question what you know about Italian food.

Harry Vederci RamsdenFebruary 29th 2012.

Quite right Carol. Too many people on here talking pollocks.

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Yes but Carol, you questioning another poster's knowledge of Italian food is equally pompous, especially when you don't know them or their qualifications, as such.

CarolFebruary 29th 2012.

Too true, anonymous! (wonder why that is!)....but pompous statements deserve pompous responses.

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