Veeno, York – Restaurant Review
by Paul Howard
It’s not everyday you encounter a genuinely different take on Italian food and wine. That Veeno manages this admirably is down to director Nino Francesco Caruso and his business partner Andrea Zecchino.
Veeno in York is their third Italian Wine Café to open, joining branches in Manchester and Leeds earlier this year. What makes it different? Well, Veeno seeks to recreate the Italian aperitivo, but with a distinctly Sicilian twist. As a long-term fan of Sicily and its wines, this venture is right up my street.
You would hope an Italian wine bar would offer excellent wines and Veeno does this particularly well. I start off with a glass of Brachetto. This vivacious, sweet red fizz from Piemonte makes for an ideal way to peruse a menu. As this was also early evening I receive a free appetiser (available 5pm-8pm), of primosale cheese drizzled with honey. That is a delicious hint of things to come.
The Veeno wine list is uniformly excellent, with the reds, rosé and whites not only Sicilian but all directly sourced from Caruso e Minini, Nino’s family winery near Marsala in western Sicily. Their wines regularly pick up awards from the likes of Gambero Rosso and the list features a who’s-who of Sicilian grape varieties.
During the evening I try glasses of dry white Grillo and Zibbibo (Muscat) with the cheeses. For the meats I select dry reds; Perricone and a Frappato/Nerello Mascalese blend. All were of excellent quality, hugely enjoyable and perfect food partners. Indeed, there is a wine-tasting menu that features six different glasses for those that want to explore the diversity and excellence of Sicilian wine, which I highly recommend trying.
Food-wise, Veeno offer what are known as spuntini, or appetisers. The beauty of this is that you can order one as a light snack, two for lunch or several to share for a main meal, tapas-style. These are based on Italian charcuterie and cheeses, accompanied by the usual suspects — bread, salads, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.
It is a credit to Veeno that these are all sourced from high quality producers located throughout Italy. The meats are absolutely fresh and the cheeses well kept. This also means quick preparation and service to your table. While some of the selections may be unfamiliar, (which adds to the sense of discovery), the friendly staff are also knowledgeable and on hand to advise.
I choose Gran Tagliere to share — in other words, a little of everything, nicely presented on a wooden platter. This comprises six different cheeses (primosale, scamorza, gorgonzola, buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano, accasiato) and six different meats (salami pistachio, Parma ham, salami Milano, speck, roccolo, truffle mortadella), with the winery’s own olive oil, balsamic vinegar, olives from Liguria and plenty of crusty bread. Generous as a main meal for two, at £22.95.
Desserts are also available and I found room for my favourite affogato (vanilla ice cream drenched in espresso) with a glass of sweet late-harvest Grillo to round things off.
Price-wise, Veeno doesn’t break the bank and offers real value. The wines are also available for take-away and naturally I buy a couple of bottles to enjoy later.
The Veeno York branch is perfectly located to attract shoppers, tourists and the post-work crowd. In a previous life I used to work opposite it (at the aforementioned Marks and Spencer) and would have passed by on my way home from work… if only Veeno had been there then!
On this freezing December night an evening bathed in Sicilian hospitality had obvious appeal. Afterward, I asked myself “why hasn’t this been done before?”
Look out for a Veeno opening in a town near you. Meanwhile, I’ll be off to the branches in Leeds and Manchester very soon.
Veeno, 7 Piccadilly, York, Y01 9PB
Also in Leeds and Manchester