Vito Ciaraolo knows good Italian food.
The 53-year-old restauranteur was just a young teenager when he began experimenting with ingredients in Southern Italy and, over a decade later, he settled in Walkley and opened Vito’s, serving an authentic collection of dishes from his homeland.
And while he’s happy to make small changes, should a customer desire a different sauce or an extra topping, he refuses to go against the integrity of his dishes, staying loyal to the recipes he’s been enjoying since he was a boy.
“I like to stick to my principals; this is what I do, what I’ve learned, what I serve,” says Vito.
“I’ve worked hard the past 25 years to educate Sheffield people about Italian food and I won’t ruin that for anyone.”
It’s clear Vito has a lot of love for the city he now calls home, and for his regular customers who have seen him through two recessions. And impressively, Vito - who some Peaky Blinders fan may recognise as the sinister Italian gangster in series one - is always the first one in the door and the last one out.
“I like to get my sleeves rolled up and dig in, I still do all the prep in the kitchen. You have to have passion for your restaurant, or you’ll never get anywhere.”
It’s Vito himself who greets us at the door and seats us in the bar to peruse the menu while he rustles up a sparkling Prosecco for me and a refreshing regional Amalfi beer for my husband. The warmth of the Walkey restaurant is quite enveloping, with colourful paintings on the walls interspersed with black and white photographs of familiar Italian landmarks.
I opt for the Insalata Caprese starter, simple with plenty of tasty mozzarella, but it’s my husband’s Fondue al Tartufo that really gets us excited; incredibly tasty without being too rich and seasoned to perfection. While it lacks a little flair in the presentation, this only serves to make it give it a more authentic feel - the kind of hearty, home-cooked dish you’d expect to be served at some quaint eaterie in a little Rome piazza. We join forces to quite literally wipe the plate clean.
For the main course we each order risotto; my husband the Risotto Al Barolo Con Cotechino e Radicchio, and I the Risotto Asparagi, Both are absolutely delicious and with perfect bite.
Desert for me is a rather scrummy chocolate souffle, though it’s technically too heavy for souffle, much more of a cake. Hubby declares his panacotta very good.
On the whole we were thoroughly impressed with our lazy Sunday night dinner at Vito’s and, at £79.90 for three courses and two drinks apiece, I’m certain we’ll be back just as soon as we can get a babysitter booked in.