It is a Peterborough institution _ – whether it was for a family celebration, a works outing, or just the place to start a night out, there can be few Peterborians who have never set foot in Topo Gigio’s in one of its guises over the past 30 years.
Originally, based in Cumbergate, in the building now home to Carluccio’s it moved to its current home in Cowgate in the 90s.
It closed its doors a little while back but now Michele (Mick) Guarnaccia and Domenico Cotugno have joined forces to revive the name and the restaurant.
I confess I was a little surprised when I heard that Mick, who will be known to many from Barista in Bridge Street and his business partner, were keeping the Topo name.
But on reflection, it makes perfect sense, as it is a brand name as well known in Peterborough as the big brand names it will have to compete with such as Carluccio ‘s and Pizza Express.
The restaurant had only been open for a couple of days when we visited so we were quite prepared for, and to make allowances for, some teething problems.
But there was no need.
We were greeted by Domenico and surveying the restaurant from our table was like meeting up with an old pal - albeit one who’d had a spruce up.
The familiar open kitchen –key to the Topo’s ethos of offering a traditional Italian eating experience - was still in place.
Domenico told us the chefs had been brought in from Italy, as part of their desire to keep things authentically Italian.
And there were certainly plenty of tempting dishes to choose from. As we chose from the menu we tucked into a basket of bread which Domenico said is freshly cooked on the premises every day.
After much deliberation I opted for a starter of Bruschetta Tradizionale, three very generous pieces of toasted bread topped with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, rocket and a healthy sprinkling of parmesan shavings (£3.95). It didn’t disappoint.
My wife opted for the Polpette alla Diavola, three traditional Italian spicy meatballs which lived up to the billing.
As a self-confessed chilli fiend my wife said they really packed a punch with a warming kick and the meatballs were tender and juicy and just the right size for a starter.
For main I opted for the Filetto Di Merluzzo in Crosta (£11.95) a delicate cod fillet served with tomatoes and courgette. It came to the table piping hot and the flaky white fish was beautifully cooked but maybe the dish was a little simpler than I would have liked. I opted for a side dish of patatine fritte (fried chips) £2.95 which for the portion size was perhaps a little pricey.
My wife went for the Cotoletta Di Pollo (£9.45) a flattened chicken breast, breadcrumbed and fried and served with lemon wedges together with an Insalata Verde (£2.95) a classic green salad of lettuce, rocket and parmesan shavings and a generous drizzle of balsamic dressing.
From the smiles across the table I could see she was happy, together with her unwillingness to share!
She said the chicken was succulent and the salad was a very tasty and generous portion.
As it was lunchtime and we both needed to get back to work, we neither had room for a pudding but we both left very happy and satisfied.
I must say I am very happy to see Topo’s back on the city’s growing list of restaurants and I look forward to a return visit.
8 out of 10
Topo Gigio’s, Cowgate, Peterborough.
Telephone: 01733 685657.
See our restaurants map at peterboroughtoday.co.uk/restaurants for more reviews.
STUZZICHINI (BREADS AND OLIVES)
Pane all’Aglio (garlic bread) £3.45
Pecorino Conn Le Pere (traditional Pecorino Roman cheese and baked sliced pear. £5.45
Gamberoni Bardati (pancetta wrapped king prawns) £6.95
PRIMI DI PASTA (PASTA DISHES)
Rigatoni Alla Salsiccia (long tubes pasta with Tuscan sausage and tomato) £8.45
Ravioli Di Zucca (Homemade ravioli filled with pumpkin with a walnut cream. £9.95
Orecchiette Alle Cime Di Rapa (Homemade Puglian pasta with broccoli). £8.25
SECONDI DI CARNE EPESCE (MAIN COURSES)
Scalloppine Al Vino Bianco (pork escallops cooked with Italian white wine). £10.95
Filleto steak (10oz fillet steak chargrilled with chips and salad). £21.95
Fritto Misto (seasonal mix of crispy fried seafood) £13.95
Topo’s Special (ham, salami, peppers, mushrooms, black olives. £9.95
Americana (salami, peppers) £8.95
Patatine Fritte (chips) £2.95
Insalata Di Pomodori (tomato and red onion salad) &2.95