With so many options right in the city centre, Manchester can sometimes feel like a real minefield in terms of eating out - whether it's a casual-dining vibe or regal date-night tête-à-tête you're after.
And in terms of Italian food specifically, there are a whole host of options at your disposal - spindles of gorgeous Italian spaghetti, luscious linguine, risotto when you're most ravenous, and streams and streams of parpadelle, and tangy sorbet for the perfect summer dessert of course. The options are endless - both in terms of menus and venues in which to enjoy them. We're both lucky and cursed like that.
What isn't so easy to find however, is a whole host of options if you yourself or one of your party has particular dietary requirements but of course, still wants to enjoy a beautifully authentic meal that isn't either A) a plain salad with less flavour than a stale potato or B) stripped of everything that makes it so damn fine and tasty in the first place...
As someone who loyally trialled a completely vegan diet for the first part of this year I know that in this regard, the struggle is all too real...
CIBO by Don Giovanni is a lesser-known prosecco bar come Italian pizza and pasta specialist in Deansgate, and they've just launched the most sumptuous vegan menu to turn even the most devout carnicore's head...
With a range of citrussy summer starters bursting with influences of the tropics and a main menu as diverse and as welcoming as the venue itself, it's hard not to be instantly charmed by the range of offer (from the impossibly creamy to the fiery, chilli-infused parpadelle) as well as the all too happy to help staff.
I chose the Insalata Di Carote, Arancia E Avocado - the salad was bursting with a summer vibrancy that instantly lifted my spirits on the otherwise miserably dull August afternoon that we visited, and the walnuts added that lovely finishing crunch.
The avocado and delicate oil dressing added just the amount of rich-fullness that you need to give a salad that slightly more full-bodied nature - just enough to nicely tantalise the tastebuds without leaving you feeling overly carb-loaded and too much so to enjoy the main (something that happens to me all of the time.)
The fettucine in the Al Limone E Prezzemolo was, I found, slightly too al dente for my taste - but this is entirely based on personal preference. Yet, the rich, soft aubergine, bursting, beautifully sweet cherry tomatoes and tangy, spicy fresh red chilli that encompassed the base of my chosen main - the Parpadelle Melanzane - were mouth-watering and the dish was served piping hot. I was drooling before the plate was even placed down on the table.
My friend chose the vegan Lasagne Alle Melanzane which I sneaked a cheeky bite of and it was glorious - when I chose to start a vegan lifestyle one thing I missed the most was lasagne and, although I felt this would have benefited from some extra vegan mozzarella (I am an incurable cheese fiend - as my thighs well know) the beautiful layers of roasted aubergine, cherry tomato and pasta sheets made for a really competitive take on the traditional Italian dish.
We visited CIBO on a Wednesday lunchtime, and I was honestly so stuffed that I couldn't even contemplate the dessert menu, as sad as that made me, but here's a little taster of the options if you do get that far...
Vegan Panna Cotta - Homemade with cream and vanilla, topped with a berry compote.
Fragole Con Balsamico E Gelato Al Limone - lemon sorbet in a strawberry balsamic reduction with a hint of amaretto liqueur.
Sorbetto - Choice of the day on enquiry.
If you haven't tried CIBO yet, it's certainly worth the visit, the prices are very reasonable - with a lavish and filling two-course meal and a drink setting you back under £20 - and for somewhere a little outside of the hustle and bustle of the city centre, it makes a lovely little respite where you can breathe and take some time out for yourself within the calm of the relaxing, stylish interiors.