WORK never ceases at the dark end of Blossom Street, Ancoats. One day the Sawmill Court residential development will be finished, but for now beyond Elnecot you negotiate a narrow building site passage and step out to a row of ground floor retail/hospitality spaces waiting to be filled. Just the second Sugo in situ, putting their marker down on this new foodie frontier.
Is it really three years since we raved about the original Sugo, that tiny Puglian pasta joint next door to Altrincham Market House, itself only then gathering word of mouth momentum?
If you didn’t know what al dente really meant you discovered it via the pasta imported weekly from the Ligorio family in San Vito, Puglia. These days the supplier is artisan producer Al Matarello in Brindisi, the blackboard at Sugo 2 informs us as we look around to appreciate the new space – double the size, serving nearly 60 diner sharing large wooden tables.
Much the same follows the original template. The small wine list comes from Reserve with the addition of a carafe offering from a Puglian Cantina. Avoiding bottles means they can stock a higher standard of house wine. The umbilical cord back to the Old Country is still al dente in its own way.
After a refresher of Blackjack Pale Ale (£5 a bottle and produced all of half a mile away) we actually went for a bottle of Grillo, Sicily’s best value white. This organic example from Sibliano cost £27 a bottle and was all floral on the nose, peachy yet savoury on the palate.
It tackled the uncompromising squid ink aioli that accompanied crispy baby squid and zucchini done ‘alla scapece’ style – ie finished in vinegar (£7.50). Its fellow starter at the same price was the loveliest plate of meatballs we’ve ever encountered. Coarsely minced lamb was larded with herbs and sharp Pecorino cheese accompanied by a sweet onion-centric ragu, fresh mint and a scattering of twice shelled, ultra seasonal broad beans.
Sugo’s Altrincham reputation was built on a ragu – the house ‘sugo’ made from slow cooked beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja ragu and parmesan, served with (little shell-like) orecchiette pasta. It has made the transition,
Elsewhere the brothers De Martiis, Alex and Michael, and co-owner Jonny Marcolgiese promise more seasonal menu changes. Bugger the seasons. They’ve got to keep a main of ‘Sugo Scoglio’ (£17) on permanently. It’s a messy broth of datterini tomato, chilli and ginger that gives a fine kick to its cargo of mussels, baby squid and king prawns and Cavatelli pasta.
The again, as a foodie whose favourite quick pasta s dinner is crab with fennel, chilli and tomatoes I bow to Sugo’s infinitely superior take on the dish with its abundance of fresh white and brown Devonshire crab meat (£14.50).
All were plated up at the open kitchen counter and you know a place is living up to expectations when you keep looking over to see if your course combination is next up. Bellissima! Amalfi lemon tart with blueberry and raspberry compote, the best lemon tart in living memory and Vanilla pannacotta, Yorkshire summer strawberries, crushed pistachio (both puds a bargain £6).
This area of Ancoats used to be ‘Little Italy’. Well, hear it first at ToM: “We’re coming home, Italy is coming home!”
Sugo Pasta Kitchen, 46 Blossom St, Manchester M4 6AJ.