December 18, 2015

A couple of weeks back I had a trip out to Anstey with my pal Sean who , among other things in his busy schedule,  contributes music reviews to the Leicester Mercury – this time though we were for me to review this rather classy Italian restaurant for the paper:

40 Stadon Rd
0116 236 8900

For all his strengths – winning two promotions, fighting off packs of wild Romanian dogs – Nigel Pearson was not a great boost to Leicester’s restaurant industry. Don Claudio on the other hand…

One of the venues where Signor Ranieri has been happy to be snapped smiling with the owners is Sapori, a venue he is quoted as saying “reminds of him home”. The restaurant is run by Luigi Ricciardi, with his brother-in-law and fellow Neapolitan Andrea Scarpati as head chef. The two met while working in a restaurant on Braunstone Gate and when they subsequently became family, they looked to open their own venue. They avoided the city and four years ago opened up in Anstey.

It’s hard not to sound slightly patronising here but this a bigger, more stylish, higher-aiming restaurant then you might expect to find in a place like Anstey. Set in a former industrial building on the edge of the village centre you pass a large private function room with it own bar and into the main restaurant space. It’s smart and lively with an open kitchen at the end with busy chefs in full whites and toques. There’s plenty of smartly-dressed staff who are pleasant and attentive, a bit overly so at times. Overall it’s less neighbourhood trattoria and much more smart night out.

A look at the menu reaffirms that impression. Everything – we are assured – from bread to gelati is home made, dishes appear ambitious and the pricing is to match. There are pizza and pasta available, and while the likes of porcini and taleggio ravioli sauteed in butter sage and paremsan with butternut squash puree certainly sound appealing, we explored other parts of the menu.

A starter of chicken liver liver with armagnac was nicely made, rich and smooth and softened by the alcohol. It was also beautifully served with toasted sultana bread and a superb chutney of Tropea onions, the sweet red variety from Calabria. Lightly-smoked mackerel was great and the match with some seriously delicious chorizo was far more successful than we had anticipated. With pared segments of Sicilian orange and dabs of orange gel it was a lovely dish.

This was sophisticated, well thought-out food. For our main courses what stood out was the sheer quality of the ingredients. A superb piece of cod was daubed in a smoky aubergine relish along with confit cherry tomatoes and samphire. I wasn’t totally convinced by the matching of cod and aubergine but again it was serious food, cooked very well. Venison cooked two ways featured jaw-droppingly good pan-fried loin – some of the best flavoured meat I’ve ever come across – in a sauce of chianti and blueberries. It was heavenly stuff and the only drawback was there wasn’t more of it. That said the accompanying venison shepherd’s pie was just as appealing in it’s own way and filled out the dish. The vegetable accompaniments were fairly routine and a little soft for my liking.

Wines including glasses of nero’d’avola and pinot grigio were fair value, but there was a minor fail on service. When ordering by the glass it is helpful to have confirmation of your wine – especially when brought by a different waiter – rather than have it just put down.

One of us was always going to have home made Italian gelato as desert and the brightly-flavoured wild strawberry version served on choux pastry bun with a warm white chocolate sauce was very good indeed. From the specials menu a selection of handmade chocolates with flavours including praline, tonka bean and coconut were a delight too.

A few weeks back Sapori was actually named the best Italian restaurant in England, though I’m not convinced the second running of “Food Awards England” carried a great deal of weight in the industry. The Good Food Guide does, however, and Sapori has a prized entry in the 2016 edition. What is clear is that Sapori is a classy venue producing good food. We were pushing the boat out a little – I’d be very happy to go back and try a simple pasta dish.


3 Responses to “Sapori”

  1. dropscone said

    I enjoyed reading this review, but might you consider bringing a vegetarian or vegan along and see how they fare at some of these places, or at least noting if the venues seem to cater for anyone other than omnivores?


  2. seantizz said

    It was a lovely evening Tim. Thanks for inviting me. I’m going to go back to Anstey soon with a vegetarian.. Hope all is fab with you. X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] 34 leading a session on cocktails and gelato and Antoni Scarpatti of Anstey’s marvellous  Sapori will address food […]


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