Some years ago this page did Marco Giove no favours by advising readers against the back room of his Italian restaurant.
What had been the cells of an old cop shop was too cold, too impersonal and less lively than the front, I said. It stuck and he wasn’t best pleased.
Over the years diners have stipulated the front room and I did when I booked a table.
Hearing I was in, Marco, still in his whites, came out of the kitchen during our meal and steered me into the back room to see it full of happy diners.
Lowering the ceiling, adding some drapes and a few other touches has transformed the room, making it look and feel cosier.
So, you’ve heard it from me, it’s fine to spend a night in chokey with Marco.
He and his wife Yasmin opened Marco@Milano on Archer Road, Sheffield, in 2000 and it’s some achievement to be still here.
They had taken over the short-lived high-end Milano, which had failed to attract diners. “I thought by putting my name in front I could save some money on the sign but it still had the reputation of being expensive,” he chuckled after our meal.
It was expensive for Marco. He hired a head chef who was determined to get a Michelin Star and within 12 months it had nearly bankrupted him.
So he brought back Franco Esposito from his previous restaurant, Rossis’s, and financial equilibrium was restored. Marco@Milano still sounds expensive, with mains between £17 and £25, and Sheffield’s well-heeled dress up to come here.
But look carefully.
For the price of one dish of Scotch beef fillet steak in a red wine sauce with braised ox cheek, balsamic baby onions and roasted garlic, you can get a rattling good three course fixed price meal for £23.50 (two courses for £17.50) any day except Saturday and have almost enough pennies left for an espresso.
Yes but they’ll get it back on the wine list, I can hear you saying. It’s got some scrumptious looking Italian wines but the house is £13.95 and although it’s not clearly advertised you can bring your own (not weekends) for just £2 corkage. “That was something I fought against for years but you have to go with the times,” he said.
TripAdvisor rates Marco@Milano fifth out of 845 listed Sheffield eateries which suggests that the dining public knows a good thing when it sees it, even if the food guides have been slow to catch on to what’s happening in Archer Road.
With a smart bar and alfresco drinking and dining on the terrace in the summer, attentive service, proper napery and Carrs Made in Sheffield silverware on the tables, you do get the feeling that your money goes a long way here.
Marco does turns in the kitchen and front of house, now he’s working again with brother Vincenzo whom foodies will remember ran the highly regarded Buon Deli in Broomhill. Incidentally, Italian restaurants usually seem to have a football ‘homage’ somewhere. Archer Road is too posh for pennants but the bar has a painting of the back view of Italy’s now retired Roberto Baggio wearing his No 10 shirt.
Should you find yourself in the restaurant with a newcomer bet them a glass of wine if they can guess the most-ordered item on the menu.
It won’t be a pasta or a steak but Thai fishcakes, introduced early on because Marco wanted something different and which, along with the caramelised carrots (vegetables don’t cost extra here) he’s not allowed to take off.
I began with a good, hearty cavolo nero (black cabbage) and lentil soup, with chunks of spicy pork sausage added by request if you’re not a vegetarian.
But if you wanted sophistication my wife’s ravioli filled with mushrooms and ricotta and flavoured with truffle hit the mark. Good taut pasta enclosed vibrant little mouthfuls.
A pan-fried fillet of salmon tasted very fresh, topped off by an excellent crisp skin. How many times do you get it limp? This came with spinach and four Sicilian prawns in a thermidor sauce (mustard, cream and cheese). The menu promised shrimps so had we been upgraded (they’d recognised us)?
Not so, said Marco, since the menu was written they’d realised shrimps didn’t work. So if you order it, make sure it’s a Food and Drink version.
My barbecued pork fillet was tasty and generous, partnered with creamy mash and a honey and mustard sauce. OK, hardly complicated but with good ingredients, big on flavour and deftly cooked.
Vegetables are plentiful and in with the price: carrots, truffled green beans and a sort of potatoes Lyonnaise.
For dessert you order from the a la carte. Chocolate panna cotta topped with coconut and served with warm figs and crumble topping was confident enough to be served out of the mould. It was the right density and quivered at the touch of a spoon. Quite impressive.
We were not as impressed with the chocolate and raspberry tart, a good filling let down by too thick and clunky pastry.
That apart the evening was a real pleasure, and you can’t say better than that, can you?
We paid £47 for food, £7.60 for wine and £3.40 for coffees.
Marco@Milano, The Old Park Lodge Archer Road, Millhouses, Sheffield S8 0LA. Tel: 0114 235 3080. Open: Tues to Sat 6–11.30pm. Vegetarian dishes. Credit cards. Music. Licensed and BYO (£2 corkage). Disabled access and toilets. Car park opposite and off Abbeydale Road South.