There are two things that I associate with the Italian culture – good food and warm hospitality.
So when venturing to Gigi’s Cucina, a newcomer to Sheffield’s restaurant scene, I was hoping it would encapsulate both.
Located in Nether Green, not far from Endcliffe Park, the restaurant has dimmed lights that glow ever-so-softly through its glass front. It could be easily missed, but we’ve been warned of this and so stop just short of driving past it.
Entering the restaurant, which is owned by Loretta Giaimo and her father, head chef Gigi, I instantly get a good vibe about the place.
Customers appear to be relaxed and happy. They’re lost in lively conversation, sipping wine from large glasses and look not to have a care in the world. It creates an I’ll-have-what-they’re-having scene that I want to be a part of.
As we walk down the steps into the compact dining area a friendly face in the open kitchen catches my gaze - it’s Gigi. His warm face lights up and I’m given a huge, sincere smile and the last niggles of the day’s stress melt away.
We’re seated in the middle of the action giving us a good view of surrounding tables and the decor. It’s cool and contemporary with a twist of rustic charm. Exposed brick and wood are complemented by edgy, low-hanging pendant lighting and modern dining furniture.
On ledges bordering the restaurant are framed black and white images that serve as a reminder of the restaurant owners’ roots. They’re a collection of Gigi’s family photos and landscape shots of the pretty Sicilian village where he grew up.
The menu is clear and concise although I still find it difficult to choose. There are meat, seafood and vegetarian options, including homemade pastas and pizzas.
I go for a classic – bruschetta. He’s feeling adventurous and so orders Mare e Monti – tiger prawns and button mushrooms sautéed in white wine, garlic and chilli with a creamy tomato sauce.
In the meantime we are given some homemade bread and oils.
His prawn starter arrives with the heads still on and though at first he looks a little concerned, he’s soon peeling them back and delving in, delighted with his choice.
My bruschetta is well presented with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes piled on a chunky piece of homemade bread. The tastes and textures are delicious, although my toast is slightly caught.
Mains are up next and are equally well presented.
My choice, the lamb shank, is the only item on the menu not done fresh from order as it’s slow cooked in a red wine and herb sauce to guarantee that melt-in-your-mouth result.
He raves about Pollo Del Figlioccio, chicken in a white wine, mushroom and cream sauce topped with parma ham.
I’m pleasantly surprised to find that both include an accompaniment of potatoes and vegetables in the price.
Luckily we have room to share profiteroles, and boy I’m glad we did. Clearly homemade, the choux pastry is quite thick but the cream luxuriously light and the chocolate sauce dark and divine.
The bill came to £71.10.
Gigi’s aim, as stated on its website, is for people to leave the restaurant having enjoyed a special Italian meal at a reasonable price in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. I think it’s fair to say they have ticked all the right boxes.
Star ratings out of six: