It’s not very often I feature a guest writer on here, but if there’s two things I love it’s The Best City in the Werld™️ and Italian food, so how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to have the continental King of Kenny, the cannoli connoisseur himself, come and give us a tour of a little slice of Italy in Liverpool at Paolo & Donato’s Italian Deli and caffé.
When he’s not knocking back espresso and Italian pastries, you can find this most eloquent of wordsmiths Kevin Jones and his one man shrine to Diego Maradona over on Instagram, sharing his love of Italian food and footy, and the most dazzling smile you ever did see.
It’s a February afternoon where the temperature is unseasonably reminiscent of those found in the months of late spring, the sun annoyingly stripping me of my outer-layers as I skip past the tourists who scramble towards the LFC store and the Echo seller whose cry for sales are somewhat disturbed as I find myself being pestered for change by a man insisting he needs to get to Wigan, although the broadness of his accent suggests he has rarely ventured beyond the Royal.
Seeking respite from this stereotypical Scouse day and from the unwanted glares of the sun, I am drawn by the Italian deli of Paolo and Donato which sits on the corner of Williamson Square, with its seating area frequented by those who were more accommodating of the winter sun.
Upon entrance I am greeted by a glass casing that stretches almost the length of the store and is burgeoning with cakes the colours of the continent and freshly made, as a gentleman in an apron and slightly-unbuttoned white shirt which illuminates the beauty of his Mediterranean complexion offers me (in a charming Italian/Scouse tone) a miniature yet perfectly-misshapen margherita he expertly thumbs before me-an offer I gladly accept. As I consider his striking resemblance to tennis legend Andre Agassi I realise the treat-filled casing is matched in breadth by the warm smiles and out-stretched arms of the abundance of authentic staff, as a beautifully bespeckled Sicilian lovingly queries my day before expertly delivering an espresso doppio which I decide to pair with a cannoli.
It is this traditional dessert that has me transfixed, its hollow insides are tantalisingly filled by fresh cream from a pasty bag before my eyes, delicate hands expertly coaxing it out as if performed by those of a talented classical musician milking a cow on some rolling Tuscan hillside. This beauty is then decoratively showered in a trio of almonds, cherries and dustings of sugar and the effect on my visionary sense is matched by an intense feeling of both love and mourning by my taste buds, as an experience my mouth was hoping would last forever was now over, totally besotted by what I had just devoured yet too self-conscious to immediately return to the counter for more. As I contemplate the lightness and flavour that cascades from the crust of my pizza I slowly notice I am surrounded by Europeans in their droves, a multitude of foreign tongues in unison with the clinking of the plates and the screams of steam-boiled milk which is iconic of the deli experience of the Italian peninsula.
As I glance out of the window at the scene I had left not so long before, Williamson Square has now become Piazza Williamson. The water that cannons from the ground in unison and is frequented by truanting school children become akin to the Fontana di Trevi, the incessant wails that escape the afternoon karaoke in the Irish pub begin to sound more like that of an operatic masterpiece performed by a Sardinian tenor. The Playhouse theatre is now reminiscent of those classical teatri found in all Italian squares and the persistent spare change gatherers who mingle outside are now seen through my rosso-tinted glasses and I now perceive these vagrants to be as sharply dressed as the Milanese masses who effortlessly stroll along the Navigli. Paolo and Donato’s Italian Deli, you truly are a porthole in the style of the classic BBC sitcom ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, although instead of the East End of London during the blitz, offering a true taste of Italian life.
Visit P&D Italian deli and caffé on the corner of Richmond Street/Williamson Square, open 7 days a week from breakfast until teatime. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram and get a load of their homemade pizza, fresh pastries and cakes, delicious coffee, and creamy gelato.