Food Review: Maranello’s, 438 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. S11 8PX, Tel. (0114) 266 5491

Maranellos owner Alfredo Geci who is often the only waiter working in the restaurant
Maranellos owner Alfredo Geci who is often the only waiter working in the restaurant

Missing staff mean Maranello’s owner manages alone as busy night handled with ease

It’s 8pm on a busy Thursday night and your waiting staff have called in sick.

What do you do?

Call for help? Scream and run away? Both?

Most might but not Alfredo at Maranello’s on Ecclesall Road.

He just keeps calm and carries on.

With eight full tables downstairs – one with a party of eight – and a table of seven upstairs he remains efficient, friendly and unflappable.

Not three words you could use to describe the staff at every Italian restaurant but they certainly applied to Alfredo last week.

Imagine the qualities of former Juventus midfielder Andre Pirlo – all calm and perfect distribution – and you have Alfredo Geci, the libero of Maranello’s.

Alfredo is a Bianconeri supporter who has been working in Italian restaurants in Sheffield since he came to this country from his home in northern Italy 16 years ago.

His hope was to one day have a restaurant of his own.

Alfredo trained in catering and hospitality at what was then Castle College, met and eventually married Sheffield girl Carly and they now live in the north of the city with their three sons.

And Alfredo has his restaurant.

“I came over here with hopes and not many plans as you do when you’re younger.

“I always wanted to have my own restaurant and I became co-owner of Maranallo’s three years ago and became the owner two years ago. I love working for myself, It’s fantastic”.

Even when your staff don’t turn up?

“These things happen sometimes,” he says with a shrug.

Service went without a blip. Alfredo brought food, drinks and tactful attention to every table and all of it with commendable cool.

“It’s all down to experience,” says 40-year-old Alfredo.

“I have worked in a lot of places before I got my own, you learn to cope with situations.”

Gloriously so on the night we were there.

Maranello’s smells like an Italian restaurant should – garlic, steak and ragu. We get there fairly early but the place soon fills up.

First impressions are of a lot of tiled surfaces which at first feels a little cold atmosphere-wise but the place soon warms up as people keep arriving and the volume and bonhomie levels increase.

Ferrari plaques, Azzuri team posters and certificates of merit from Trip Advisor and Westside magazine line the walls along with outsize wine bottles and the large specials board.

For starters I had homemade fishcakes with salmon and cod and lemon and garlic mayonnaise.

The fishcakes were nicely crisp on the outside with good chunks of fish inside – though there was a lot more potato than cod or salmon the flavour and texture were very good.

My wife had calamari which she liked very much and commented on the lightness and crispness of the batter.

Maranello’s has an extensive menu with all the Italian staples and a blackboard of specials every day.

“I like to offer all the things people expect and we do cater for all tastes but I also like to keep up to date,” said Alfredo.

“There are things I dare not take off the menu but we like to bring in new ideas with the specials. I freshen up the main menu every couple of years

“Steaks are probably the most popular thing on the menu and I have to say that British fillet steak is as good as any. As is the lamb. We get our meat from Chris Beech in Walkley, it’s very good quality.”

I went for the veal for main course – soltain bocca – escallop of veal with sage, butter and Parma ham to be precise – out of curiosity as much as anything.

It’s years since I had veal and I was impressed by how melt-in-the-mouth tender it was. Given a saltiness by the Parma ham It came with roast new potatoes, green and broad beans though some of those were a little dry.

Karen had crespella, a pancake filled with ricotta cheese, spinach, fresh basil and garlic and baked with mozzarella, béchamel and tomato sauce.

Lots of spinach, cheese and sauce – hearty, staple Italian food as you’d expect though it could have had a little more oomph flavour-wise.

For dessert Karen had chocolate fondant with ice cream which is delicious. Although the centre was a little less runny than it might have been, the rich chocolatey taste was sensational.

Alfredo buys in his desserts ready made from a company called Bindi but I’m assured that he and his team make a cracking tiramisu on occasion.

I was a bit full so decided to fall back on the Italian staple fogato – which I hadn’t heard of until six months ago – vanilla ice cream with an espresso poured over it. Luscious and creamy ice cream with the bitter and aromatic espresso to bring out the best.

No test of a chef’s skill – Alfredo made it himself – but simple and lovely and very Italian.

For three courses and a glass of very acceptable house red our bill came to £54.90 – plus a fairly handsome tip for the silky quality of that Pirlo-like service.

Star rating out of five:

Food: 4

Atmosphere: 4

Service: 5

Value: 4

Maranello’s, 438 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. S11 8PX Tel. (0114) 266 5491 Maranellos Opening: 5.30pm – 10.30pm Tues-Sat. 5.30pm – 10pm Sun