Dale Street, Liverpool
By Lawrence Saunders | Cocktails & light bites | £££ | 92-94 Dale Street, Liverpool L2 5TF | 0151 236 9030
Us Liverpudlians are pretty well catered for when it comes to quality Italian restaurants.
There’s Amalia, San Carlo and Italian Club Fish in the city centre, or the fabulous Cucina Di Vincenzo out in the suburbs.
But what about an authentic Italian café bar which serves food all day? Do we need one? A pair of Sicilian siblings certainly thought so.
Stylish Dale Street venue Carlisi is the brainchild of former long-time Il Forno manager Alessio Carlisi, which he runs alongside his brother Federico.
Alessio looks after the food whilst his kin administers an extensive drinks offering created with knowledge acquired at city cocktail bar Be At One.
Carlisi’s varied food menu covers everything from coffee and cocktails to breakfasts and bruschetta.
My wife and I visited on a Friday evening with designs on sampling a handful of drinks and a medley of light bites.
Upon entry, Alessio greeted us with a broad smile and stern handshake at the bar before seeing us through to our table on the quieter side of the venue.
As we glanced at the menus for the first time, the attentive host started us off with a glass of refreshing Prosecco Bio each (£23.95 a bottle).
With bubbles still popping on palettes, we made our first foray into the lengthy cocktail list – each plumping for The Martinez (£6.95) after advice from an exuberant Federico.
G’Vine Gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, luxardo maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters made up this aperitif and despite the presence of ‘mother’s ruin’, which I usually avoid like the plague, it was actually very pleasant.
We paired our cocktails with two creations from the Bruschetta Bar – Bruschetta Bufalina and Bruschetta Veggie (both £4.50).
The former, as the name suggests, combined buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil on toasted sourdough bread.
The latter topped another artisan slice with sundried tomato, mixed peppers, mushrooms, soft creamy cheese and balsamic vinegar.
Carlisi’s bread comes direct from Bridgewater Street’s fêted Baltic Bakehouse, whilst its fresh ingredients are imported from Italy.
“Mouths were agape as we sliced open the burrata to release a heavenly river of soft cheese and thickened cream… bellissimo.”
The benefit of using local and authentic produce was writ large with our first two dishes.
The unassuming assortment of boss bread and sumptuous cheese with quality dressings and crisp vegetables conjured pleasant memories for my wife and I of Italian summer holidays gone by.
In between bites Alessio made one of numerous visits to our table (as he did to other patrons) displaying an attentiveness which, thanks to his affable and genuine nature, did not once edge towards overbearing.
Our next nibble was a particular highlight; Grana Padano and Miele (£2.95) – Grana Padano cheese and honey served with more sourdough.
The Grana Padano, slightly sweeter than fellow Italian hard cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano, bathed in honey was a gastronomic revelation.
Whilst I delighted in the latest dish Federico arrived with my next cocktail, We Love You (£7.95).
All his own work, I can see this passionately christened creation of passion fruit puree, Passoa liqueur, raspberry vodka and orgeat syrup topped with rose lemonade, becoming a big favourite.
Our assault on Alessio’s Aperitivo Menu continued with Insalata Golosa (£5.95) – a heaving ball of mozzarella-esque burrata cheese served with a mixed leaf salad, sliced bresaola beef and cherry tomatoes.
Mouths were agape as we sliced open the burrata to release a heavenly river of soft cheese and thickened cream… bellissimo.
By this point my partner had quite sensibly decided to call it quits drinks-wise. I on the other hand, possibly (definitely) foolishly, had not.
Refreshing blonde beer Menabrea (£3.80) may have managed to do the inconceivable and supplant Birra Moretti as my go-to Italian lager.
A classic selection of cured meats and cheeses (£7.95 per person) served with bread sticks and salad would be the evening’s concluding dish.
The trio of bold semi-soft and hard cheeses accompanied a generous assortment of magnificent preserved delicacies from across Italy.
Sadly there was to be no dessert as a party of four in the corner nabbed the final three cannoli, but I can confirm the dainty cream-filled pastries looked exquisite as Federico whisked them past our table.
In an honorable attempt to ease my pain, Federico produced a stunning off-menu Affogato cocktail made with ice cream, rum, coffee espresso and amaretto which went a long way to satisfying my sugar craving.
Half-climbing, half-falling into our Uber, I was in no doubt Alessio had accomplished his vision of bringing an authentic Italian bar to Liverpool which offers the best of his homeland’s famous food, drink and hospitality.
Head along and say ciao.
Lawrence recommends… The Grana Padano with honey.