Jane Pikett gets reacquainted with her old friend, Uno’s
So, it was raining. Properly raining. In stair rods (does anyone still have stair rods, by the way?). And blowing a gale. Like in The Wizard of Oz.
Hence, as I careered through the front door at Uno’s, bringing with me an Arctic blast, a very wet brolly, and disastrous hair, I very nearly fell straight into the arms of the lovely Nico, Uno’s charismatic (and yes, flirtatious) assistant manager, who, when he saw me, all wet and shivering, gave me a huge hug to warm me up, a big glass of wine, and pretended not to notice the bird’s nest on my head.
By the time my dinner partner had arrived I’d downed the first glass and was on the second, all warmed up and mooning at Nico as he guided me, very expressively, through the wine list, which is predominantly Italian and rather evocative when explained by a charming man in possession of a passion for his homeland’s vino.
Uno’s is what I call vintage Newcastle – a proper traditional Italian which has been here forever, which means everyone over a certain age has stories of long nights here, partners met here, dancing on tables enjoyed here, all with good food, good wine, and good old Italian hospitality.
I’m told that Newcastle has seen the opening of 20 new restaurants in the last half year or so, and there are another 20 due to open in the next six months. Some of them are good (some are not, obviously), yet Uno’s keeps going, doing traditional fayre very well, served on the same tables with the same sense of fun it’s always had.
Bring your kids for an early evening tea and they will always be made a fuss of. Bring a gaggle of friends for a birthday celebration, and you’ll have one of those vintage nights you never forget and end up with loads of photos on your phone of Italian waiters. Come for a romantic dinner à deux and they’ll pop you in a quiet corner and make you feel like the only two people in love in the world.
And do you know, despite all those new shiny places, it’s still packed at 6pm on a Tuesday night, because, like an old friend, it’s always ready with a hug and a big glass of wine.
Sometimes, I just can’t face another new kid on the block, but I can always do a night at Uno’s (and yes, I have some stories, and no, I can’t print them).
They do gluten-free pasta now, which is fab, and the di mare sauce packs a punch, popping with tomato and masses of fish. It’s a big, big bowl, and I finish the lot, just like mamma would. The salad caprese is excellent, the calamari is bliss, you can have skinny pasta dishes, should the fancy take you, or just blow out with a huge, heavenly pizza followed by a big slab of tiramisu, which we shared, and then ordered a second, because it was good and, well, life’s short.
Wine, more wine, and a little more wine, coffee, tiramisu, and Nico – ahhh Nico – made for the perfect night and not a little nostalgia. There will always be new boys and girls on the block, but there will only ever be one Uno’s.
Uno’s, Sandhill, Quayside Newcastle, NE1 3AF, tel 0191 261 5264, www.unotrattoria.co.uk