MAXINE GORDON reviews Little Italy, Goodramgate

YORK has so many restaurants – with new arrivals every month – that it can be a challenge to pick a good one.

That's why you can't beat a personal recommendation, whether from a friend, colleague – or our Eating Out column!

Little Italy is one of York's culinary hits. If you've had a string of misses and are looking for some decent food that's worth shouting about, this is your place.

But do book ahead. This is already a popular restaurant, well-established on the eating out scene having been opened by owners Andrea and Mandy Gaias in 1992.

If you want a cheap and cheerful Italian where you can snap up a pizza or a bowl of pasta for under a tenner, sorry, this is not it. There are plenty of places like that in York – but only one Little Italy. It prides itself on making all its own pasta in-house along with many Italian desserts, which it also sells in the deli on the ground floor of its base in Goodramgate, just a few metres away from Monk Bar.

The restaurant itself is like a reverse of the Tardis: it looks large from the outside, but is compact inside. It has a wide frontage on to the street, but not much depth. There are a few tables on the ground floor near the deli counter, including one right by the door which would be ideal to spot the comings and goings but no good if you were after a romantic meal for two or were easily chilled.

Upstairs has a main dining area as well as a few nooks and crannies where tables have been placed. It means some table positions are better than others and it may just be your luck where you sit – or if you are a regular perhaps you can request a table of choice?

The loos are up a flight of steep stairs, so be warned if you have mobility challenges.

There were three of us and we had a table in the main section. It was warm in the restaurant and even with one of the windows open, my mum was overheating. One diner was sitting in a white T-shirt vest, plainly suffering too.

It's quite raucous too and it was easy to hear the goings-on of people around us.

We had a very friendly waiter, a student, who chatted happily to my daughter about her GCSEs and heading into sixth form. We ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio (£19.95) and a jug of iced water while we studied the menu.

There was a page of specials featuring a pasta of the day plus beef and lamb dishes, as well as the a la carte.

I was feeling particularly indecisive. On my last visit, I enjoyed some fish, while Mum had loved the seafood pasta.

But I was reviewing this time, so fancied something different.

We passed on the starters menu (which featured home-made soup, bruschetta, fritto misto and an antipasti sharing platter among the selection) and dived straight into main courses.

Mum chose first, picking the prettily named Spaghetti Aurora (£13.95) and was happy indeed. The home-made spaghetti was thicker than what you might have expected, more like a bucatini, and was cooked in the Italian style with plenty of bite. The sauce was a lovely rich and creamy mix of tomato, white wine, garlic and parsley and was laced with soft and succulent prawns. Mum ate every scrap.

My teenage daughter wanted a vegetarian option and spotted just the dish in gnocchetti sardi con melenzana (£12.50). Gnocchetti is a pasta staple of Sardinia and comes in a small, shell-like shape that resemble mini dumplings on the plate. Again, this had a bite to it, and again, it had a tasty sauce, this time a rich vegetable ragu starring aubergine, garlic, parsley basil and tomato.

From the specials menu, I chose the mussels in a tomato broth (£9.95). This was billed as a starter, but was filling enough for a main meal. A large bowl was brimming with dark shells, all opened invitingly to reveal the tender trophies inside. The sauce was light and tangy, and I enjoyed soaking it up with the pieces of toasted ciabatta which were served alongside.

For dessert, my daughter chose the ice-cream (three scoops for £5.50), made by local gelato maker Roberto, asking for two scoops of hazelnut and one of chocolate. This came in a Sundae glass and looked divine, but the hazelnut variety was disappointing on the account of it being too icy. This was the only let down of the evening.

By contrast, the vanilla ice-cream in my affogato (£5.95) was silky smooth and utter perfection. This affogato was the best I'd had. Besides the shot of espresso (decaf for me) it was also topped with Amaretto liqueur and crushed Amaretti biscuits.

Our bill came to £67.80, which we thought was reasonable.

Little Italy, 12 Goodramgate, York

T: 01904 623539


Food: Tasty 4/5

Ambience: Loud/hot 3/5

Service: Friendly 4/5

Value: Good 3.5/5

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press