You can guarantee I have to go away with work for the night and something unmissable pops up in Manchester the same night. This time it was the Moretti Gran Tour hitting Old Granada Studios and Charlie agreed, somewhat selflessly, to go in my place:
Italian food done well is a beautiful thing.
I can still remember my astonishment after walking into an all-you-can eat venue in Bologna. It was late, we were tired, most places were closed, this was cheap, open and the owners knew more English than we knew Italian.
The food was divine. Beautifully simple dishes including a lasagne using only a bechemel sauce and green beans, pizza topped solely with Parmesan.
I have to admit I’ve rarely found anything that’s come close in the UK.
One of the closest was the Gran Tour pop up at Old Granada Studios sponsored by Italian beer company Birra Moretti. To put it plainly, I was in heaven.
The event was held over a weekend – Friday to Sunday – and offered, for the mere price of £10, beer, food (x 2), coffee and gelato. An absolute bargain and mimicking a lot of our other street food style pop-up events, the industrial setting was perfect.
The welcome through the gate was smelt before it was seen – wood fired pizza from Pizza Pilgrims on one side, the delights of Forza Win and their porchetta roasting on the other. Your eyes widened in delight, your mouth watered, your tummy growled in anticipation.
Sadly, we arrived too early and these delights weren’t ready yet, we were far too eager. So we decided to do things a little bit backwards and, after grabbing a tall draught beer, we headed to Gelupo Gelato, their flavours representing the whole of Italy. From the rich dark chocolate of the Bonet, to the light sharp citrus of the Sicillian Lemon and Thyme, we were worried we’d started with the best and it was all we could do not to lick the little pots of creamy heaven clean (there were children around, I didn’t want to teach them bad manners).
It was then I spotted the Arancini Bros. I have a bit of a problem with arancini. I hate to call it an addiction, but the crisp breadcrumbs surrounding tomato risotto, surrounding mozzarella and the oozing Tallegio, surrounded by mushroom risotto were so good, I pondered bigamy. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, there was an Italian lady there who felt exactly the same way – though she restrained herself a little and only gave him a kiss on the cheek.
We had barely scratched the surface.
Two different types of gnocchi were available from Pasta e Basta – beetroot with a soft salty cheese sauce, and potato with a wild boar ragu. The gnocchi were soft full of flavour and very filling and it was around this point we were grateful for elasticated waists and flowing skirts.
The deep fried meatball calzone from the Cheeky Italian was a sight to behold, soft rich meat balls, crispy pastry. I did feel it was a shame they’d popped him at the back of the venue in a tiny little corner, but the personality of Teejay more than made up for it. I do think that he, the Arancini Bros and the fabulously charming and elegantly mustachioed chap from Gurmetti would have been an team in the middle of the venue. Three true characters who charmed our socks off.
Grabbing a second beer – I had to try La Rossa, the sweeter and more boozy sister of Birra Moretti – we discussed our last nibble. Though we wanted pizza, we wanted porchetta, we even wanted the gorgeous looking ravioli from the Cooking Cooks, there was only one winner and that was Giacomo, his moustache and their torta fritta.
Pillows of dough fried until they are both soft and crisp at the same time, topped with guanciale – also known as ‘face bacon’ – wonderfully thinly sliced cured bacon, with a good distribution of fat and meat. I don’t love it because it’s pronounced -gwancharlie. Honest. It’s just a bonus.
This foray into some of the best that Italy can offer in the UK was one of the best events I’ve been to in a while. Great food, great beer, talks from the stall holders, demonstrations and all for £10?
Can we do it again?
Massive thanks to Charlie for going in my place, I hope it comes back to Manchester soon so I get to go!
The food and drink was provided for free due to Charlie being a guest of Birra Moretti. This is an honest and unbiased review of the food, drink and experience.