MAXINE GORDON reviews Delrio’s by Micklegate Bar

FOR the past 26 years, Giovanni Delrio has been giving diners a taste of Sardinia from his atmospheric cellar restaurant just a Mozzarella-ball throw from Micklegate Bar.

And I’ve been dining there almost as long. When I moved to York some 21 years ago, Delrio’s was a firm favourite and I was a regular. What was not to love about it? The food was fantastic, whether you had a simple pizza or bowl of pasta, or a beautiful piece of fish from the specials selection. And the setting was second-to-none. Deep beneath the heart of historic York, here was a labyrinth of small rooms which when lit by candlelight was just simply magical.

But York has changed a lot over the years, with an explosion of new restaurants to try, which had lured me away from Delrio’s. Until this year. A few weeks ago, we returned with friends and had a knock-out dinner, sampling the home-cured salmon and oven-baked sea bream, which were outstanding.

This visit was a family affair – and it had taken us a couple of attempts to get a booking for a Saturday night (so do call ahead).

We began with the hard-to-resist, pizza garlic bread (£4.75), to share. This was simple, but perfect: a thin, crisp, base topped with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. It was demolished in seconds.

We washed it all down with a delicious and aromatic bottle of the house white, (Tenuta Cocci Grifoni Tellus) a delicious verdicchio, dry and full of tropical notes – and a great price at £15.95.

There were four in our party: my mum chose the linguine allo scoglio (£12.95), a seafood pasta tossed with mussels, clams, and prawns, cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic and fresh herbs. Mum said it was delicious and packed with flavour.

My daughter kept with the seafood theme, opting for risotto ai frutti di mare (£12.50) – Italian rice cooked with mixed seafood and white wine. Another winner.

My husband and I picked from the specials of the day: he chose the pappardelle pasta with venison ragu, while I couldn’t resist the pasta vongole – linguine with clams and crab.

The meaty dish was another knock-out. The venison had been slow-cooked to that melt-in-the-mouth stage, allowing it to be enveloped easily in the wide ribbons of pasta. Hubby gave it top marks.

My dish was more of a subtle affair, but enjoyable all the same. The clams were still in their shells, and the crab meat clung to the thin stands of pasta, all of which were perfectly cooked.

There is plenty of other choice on the menu, with pizzas from £8.50, and pasta dishes from £9.95. There is a selection of filled pastas too as well as fish specials such as baby octopus cooked in chilli garlic and tomato, sardines baked in the oven, as well as the fish of the day (bream on our visit).

Other temptations lie in wait among the meat and chicken options, including chicken breast pan fried with tiger prawns in white wine, mustard and cream, and costata di manzo – rib-eye steak served with a garlic, parsley and sun-dried tomato butter.

It’s worth leaving room for a dessert – and make sure to ask what the specials are. We were offered the meringue roulade with fresh fruit and cream, but instead plumped for the chocolate torte special. This was exceptional – the base was impressively thin, but it was the filling that won our combined admiration. Chocolate tortes can be dense and heavy. This was quite the opposite; it was light and creamy, more like a mousse, and bursting with cocoa flavour. It was clear it had been made with expertise, pride and love.

I finished my meal with an affogato (£5.75) – a dish of ice cream served with an espresso and thin biscuit. By pouring the hot coffee over the vanilla ice-cream, it transforms it into something completely different: a hot yet cold coffee-flavoured soup. Yummy.

Our bill, including drinks, just nudged over £100, which we thought was great value for a fantastic meal for four.

Service is first-rate too, with staff knowledgeable about the menu and able to make recommendations and give descriptions with confidence.

And it’s heartwarming to know that more than quarter of a century after opening in York, Delrio’s is still serving excellent food from its wonderfully atmospheric restaurant. If we gave out awards to food heroes in York, Giovanni Delrio would get my vote.

Delrio’s restaurant

10-12 Blossom Street, York, YO24 1AE

T: 01904 622695


Food: Very good 4.5/5

Ambience: Unique 4/5

Service: Knowledgeable 5/5

Value: Very good 4/5

This review is independent and paid for by The Press