I’ve only been to Sicily once, but it was a quite unforgettable trip. Me and a mate in a clapped-out Alfa Romeo covered most of the island, stayed in everything from a 15th century monastery in Taormina to a dilapidated farmhouse near Trapani and even spent an amazing day seeing how far we could drive up Mount Etna, which was very angrily erupting at the time.
We got about halfway up before a flaming rock – freshly landed on the roadside – convinced us we should have listened to the warnings of that vulcanologist we met in the bar the night before.
Of all Italian food, I like Sicilian the best. It’s simple, rustic, honest and absolutely delicious.
Big flavours, freshness and simplicity are the key. You’ll probably be familiar with dishes like arancini, caponata and cannoli, and I remember sampling all these but also scacciata (a flatbread with veg and meat), panelle (chickpea flour fritters) and the best granita I’ve ever had, supplied by an old man with a cart opposite the church in Forza d’Agrò where Michael Corleone married Apollonia in The Godfather. You can imagine, then, my delight that a relatively authentic, good value Sicilian restaurant has opened a ten-minute walk from my front door.
Mancia Sicilian Kitchen arrived on Hull’s bustling Newland Avenue last autumn and has quickly gathered much positive word-of-mouth. Owned and run by second- generation Sicilian Angelo Romano, it’s a cosy 23-seat affair with a fab menu of unfussy small plates, perfect-crust pizzas, tempting pasta and freshly made desserts. Angelo learned his trade at his Sicilian- born dad’s knee before opening takeaways around the city and, finally, his own sit-down place. It’s not yet perfect, but it’s doing a roaring trade so it may not need to be.
Of the small plates, I’ve tried the lovely burrata (which was served along with a superfluous chilli jam that I ignored), spicy polpette (meatballs of pork and beef blathered in ragu and ricotta), and a particularly authentic bruschetta, which eschewed the better-known tomato and basil variety for crushed cannellini beans, friarielli broccoli and crispy onions.
There is also panelle, which was much smoother than I remember it, and a truly excellent arancini. Angelo tries to offer a new variety every day. I had the Calabrian sausage, brisket, peas and smoked mozzarella version and it was seriously good. Crispy, light, deep and moreish.
The best pasta dish I’ve tried is the all’amatriciana, which is paccheri pasta with guanciale, or pork cheek. Paccheri is the much larger version of rigatoni that’s very easy to cook badly. Here, it’s cooked perfectly and served with very simply with the pork, tomato sauce, chilli and pecorino.
Angelo’s dad Daniele ran the Italian stall in Hull market for many years before passing it onto his nephew Allesandro, who is still there. Angelo didn’t get the stall (he didn’t want it) but he did get his family’s traditional recipe for pizza base. I reckon he got the best deal. The pizzas are proper. No gimmicky stuff, crispy, chewy bases and just enough topping to let you know it’s there but not so much it overwhelms. They’re all good, so take your pick. I like the Calabrese, featuring nduja sausage and basil. Unfussy, unshowy, irresistible.
Desserts are equally impactful. Sfinci needs no further recommendation than a translation: fried soft pastry filled with sweet ricotta, served in chocolate sauce. They are traditionally served with candied fruit but who’s counting?
The tiramisu is very good, as are the unexpectedly tasty almond biscuits. You’ll probably go for the cannolo, though, and you’d be right to. The ricotta stuffing is beautifully light and creamy.
Mancia still needs work. There’s no website, opening times seem a moveable feast and Angelo has yet to apply for a booze licence, so you are advised to take your own as the offy next door isn’t particularly good. The drinks currently on offer aren’t very diverse; there is coffee, water or several flavours of Tory Fanta, AKA San Pellegrino.
Mancia is already getting enough custom, though, to sell out every night so booking is strongly advised, just leave a little table for me, please. You will learn to fear my wrath if you come between me and my regular arancini fix.
Mancia Sicilian Kitchen, 45 Newland Avenue, Hull, HU5 3BE. Tel: 01482 205135. Open: Tuesday to Friday, 4.30-10pm, Saturday, 12-10pm.
Drinks selection 2/5