SILVANO’S has been part of the dining-out scene in York for almost 40 years. 

Chef Silvano Scanu opened his first restaurant, the Birdcage, in Bishopthorpe in 1981. 
The following year he revealed the inaugural Silvano’s – in Goodramgate, just metres away from its latest incarnation in the former Lime House restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago. 
In between, the restaurant was also located in Cumberland Street and Micklegate. 

Now aged 68, it seems Silvano cannot keep out of the kitchen. We ate there on a Saturday and there were only a couple of tables occupied when my husband and I arrived just after 6pm.
The restaurant is compact, with the dining room at the front divided in two by a supporting wall, affording privacy to diners in a way modern, open-plan establishments cannot. 
Given how empty the restaurant was, I asked if we could sit at the large window table, but was told because it was a table for four we could not. This was a shame because the place was practically empty and during our 90-minute visit only three or four more small parties came in and none sat at the table we had wanted.

Instead we took a table for two by the door. The table was very small and when our main courses came, the plates were hanging over the side and we had to move the menus to the nearby window-ledge to make more room.

We ordered drinks: a white wine spritzer for me and a bottle of beer for my husband. There was a bit of a delay in these arriving, but we were grateful when they did. We were even more grateful when the waiter said they were on the house because the restaurant didn’t have a licence so couldn’t charge us. He added he hoped that would be rectified in a matter of days. On calling again this week, we were assured the drinks licence was now in place.

The menu has little surprises and covered all the Italian classics including pizza, pasta, risotto, grilled meats and fish. There was a specials board too. To begin, we asked to share the affettato misto (£7.95), described as mixed Italian salami with olives and pickles.
Before that came, our waiter brought us a basket of bread and a small dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. 

A nice complimentary touch – or it would have been had the bread been some lovingly home-made Italian ciabatta or focaccia. Instead we received hunks of supermarket-like wholemeal, including a piece of the heel.

Disappointing. I was hoping that would be the sole off note of our evening, but when the starter arrived, my heart fell further. I was expecting a lovely rustic platter full of Mediterranean meats, juicy olives and crunchy pickles; instead we were served a few slices of Parma ham, salami and a tiny portion of lettuce, tomato and celery strands. 

When I called back the waiter to inquire about the missing olives and pickles, he returned with a cup of black olives, capers and artichokes. This made the dish better, but the olives were poor – not the high-quality fruity, fleshy variety you might expect from a veteran establishment like Silvano’s, but more resembling those tasteless black ones straight out of a jar.
Things didn’t massively improve from there. 

My husband’s rack of lamb (£18.95) was cooked all the way through when he had asked for it to be “medium” while the dish I picked from the specials board – duck galantine (£17.95) – was unappetising and not what I was expecting. The texture was rubbery and the red mush underneath was not “cabbage” as the waiter said, but a bland beetroot mash. 

I sent it back and staff immediately offered me another dish. Mindful my other half was almost finished, I picked without delay the fillet steak with Gorgonzola sauce (£22.50).

All main dishes come with a selection of vegetables, in this case new potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and ratatouille. These were nicely cooked, especially the oven-roasted carrots, but it was a tiny portion for two people to share with only four potatoes. 

My steak arrived fairly promptly and scored zero for presentation but four out of five for tastiness. It came on a square plate, plonked in the middle of a sea of cheese sauce. I promptly rescued the meat from the unsightly goo and placed it in the dish of vegetables and tucked in.
There is a cabinet of desserts, most of which are homemade. We shared a small dish of tiramisu and it was decent, but not enough to rescue what had been a disappointing visit to a restaurant of which we had expected so much more.

Silvano’s, 55 Goodramgate, York
Phone 01904 466297

Food: Disappointing 2.5/5
Service: OK 3/5
Ambience: Quiet 3/5
Value: Poor 2.5/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press