The restaurant world is a fickle one. Openings, closings, fads and fashions; sometimes it is hard to keep up. It is also distracting, making it easy to forget those choosing to ignore the capricious and whimsical nature of the restaurant business. These places invariably will stand the test of time, so periodically I like to revisit them. Which is how I recently found myself heading to Delrio’s in York.
For 22 years, Sardinian-born Giovanni Delrio has been cooking up fine Italian food from the kitchen of his basement restaurant on Micklegate. He came to York on a college work placement in 1978 and stayed. After making his mark in the kitchens of many local hotels and restaurants he finally opened his own place. He keeps close contact with his family back home and his Sardinian roots are still the main influence on his food.
It was a delight just to drop in one evening and bag a table, usually not easy here after about 6.30pm. Our luck was in, as no sooner seated, a stream of diners followed behind. This is a popular place.
Delrio’s is also an unchanging place, which personally I find refreshing. Candles are still firmly wedged into wax-covered bottles, the walls cluttered with old posters, flags and random objects. I love it.
The attention from staff is though, at times, a little over zealous. It is friendly, precise but comes with a tad of pressure behind it. This is hardly surprising given the constant demand on both service and the kitchen.
The menu, like the décor at Delrio’s, is also pretty-much unchanged – at least that is how it feels. There was a familiarity as we nimbly flicked through meeting antipasti, pizzeria, paste and risotto, secondi, salse and contorni along the way. No explanations needed, no second guessing, just straightforward, tempting Italian dishes. There are specials involving fish and a few seasonal dishes adding a pleasing variety into the mix.
The familiarity of the wines follows the same pattern as the food. There are a few New World interlopers but predominantly Italian wines rule, as they should.
A starter platter of Italian meats came with lightly pickled vegetables. It was a fine dish to amply feed one hungry carnivore or two with less robust appetites. The accompanying bread, however, was disappointing. A few thin slices of slightly dry baguette do not do justice to the quality of the meats nor uphold the reputation of Italian breads.
The second starter of a Caprese salad was OK, not a delight but erring on the plus side of satisfactory. Let’s be honest, tomatoes are never going to come kissed with Neapolitan sunshine on a March night in York, yet surprisingly these still managed to have taste and a reasonable texture. The mozzarella too. A drizzle of fruity olive oil was pleasant but I could have managed without the dried herbs. In fact, I could happily live the rest of my life without any form of dried herb sprinkled on food. In the right hands this condiment can just about pass muster, however as this is rarely the case they are best left alone. How much more pleasing fresh basil would have been.
On the same tack, it is now time to forever stop the cayenne-sprinkled plate rim decoration. This archaic adornment – found not only at Delrio’s but countless other places too – brings absolutely nothing to a dish. Let the food do the talking.
The star of this night, for me, was Tagliatelle ai Porcini e Tartufo, a deep-plate filled with ribbons of pasta bathed in an unctuous, creamy sauce with chunks of fresh, earthy porcini mushrooms and a waft of truffle oil. This was quality ingredients working perfectly together. Given the slightly chunky texture of the pasta I suspected it was home made. I was wrong. Though some of the pasta at Delrio’s is made in collaboration with Little Italy on Goodramgate, for now the tagliatelle is still bought in.
Moving away from the hearty, homely fare came a more upmarket restaurant dish of Scampi and Gamberoni Catalana This was a plate of superb, fat, meaty scampi and prawns covered in a thick, spicy, rich tomato and caper sauce. So delicious, the plate was wiped clean.
There was little room left for dessert but we still managed to squeeze in an Affogato. The meeting of hot espresso and ice-cream was truly delicious. A lovely way to end an excellent dinner.
As we climbed the steep stairs from the restaurant, up and out into the cold night there were sighs of satisfaction all round. Satisfaction that no matter how long it is until we go again, Delrio’s is a place we can always count on.
Three course dinner for two with three glasses of wine around £70 but pasta and pizza comes in much cheaper.
Delrio’s Restaurant. 10-12 Blossom Street, York YO24 1AE Open Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm-10.30pm. 01904 622695.