Family-run restaurants always have a special atmosphere; they’re warm, welcoming and serve up excellent food made to recipes past down generations. And in Liverpool, we’re convinced that some of the best eateries are the ones who can proudly boast of histories stretching back decades.
From fiery Italian eateries to Chinese cafes with incredible backstories, we’ve picked the best family restaurants Liverpool has and explored their backstories. Here’s our top pick of family-run eateries in the city…
Run by Dave Abe and his Japanese father, this hidden-away restaurant is one of Liverpool’s best kept foodie secrets. Set up by the pair when they noticed the lack of quality Japanese food in the North-West of England, Etsu hired the very best specialty chefs they could find and set about introducing Scousers to high-quality, authentic Japanese dishes.
With over 70 years of restaurant experience between the staff, relax in Etsu’s cosy atmosphere and enjoy some jaw-dropping Japanese food, including traditional bento boxes for lunch, delicious curries such as Tonkatsu and Torikatsu, Udon soup noodle bowls and much, much more. Plus, make sure you check out their extensive sushi menu, which offers freshly prepared, perfectly cut fish crafted by a Japanese-trained sushi chef!
And if you’re looking for information on Japanese culture or planning a trip to the land of the rising sun, feel free to ask the waiting staff – they’re more than happy to help.
25 The Strand (off Brunswick Street) L2 0XJ
2. San’s Café
Hidden away in the North Docks, this tiny, unassuming café has been quietly making waves with its quality authentic Chinese food for decades. Offering “the best dumplings in Liverpool”, and regarded as a Liverpool Institution, you’ll always find your food served with a smile from Mrs San.
But it’s the story behind San’s Café that makes this a truly legendary family restaurant. Set up by Tseng Chikhao in the 1960s when Liverpool was still a war-battered city struggling to find its feet, the small greasy spoon-meets-noodle bar quickly became a favourite for dock workers, ships’ crews and officers and locals alike. Known as ‘San’ to his friends (because he hailed from Sichuan province), Tseng Chikhao made Liverpool his home when he was unable to return to his birth-place.
Having been drafted into the Chinese ‘nationalist’ army in world war two and injured in Nepal, San ended up joining the British Merchant Army and working for the Blue Funnel Line for over 20 years, travelling the globe but always returning to Britain where he settled down and had children. And when he was made redundant from the shipping company in 1965, he decided to stay in Liverpool and set up the now famous Lightbody Street café.
San, who sadly passed away in 2014, offered customers fiery food straight from his native Sichuan alongside homely British dishes of bacon butties and fry-ups. Now run by his partner, Linda, San’s famous catchphrase still shapes the atmosphere and food served at the café: “Hey, I am half Sichuanese and half Scouser.”
3. Casa Italia
Head to this Stanley Street establishment for a truly unique Italian experience in the centre of Liverpool. Established by Cavaliere Mario Campolucci-Bordi over 40 years ago, the city-renowned restaurant is one of Merseyside’s oldest eateries and offers an authentic taste of Italy to customers – there’s a reason you’ll often see a queue winding out the door.
From the delectable antipasti, including homemade Italian breads such as Focaccia Toscana and Bruschetta Alla Mario, to the delicious main meals of pasta and pizza, Casa Italia is as classically Italian as it gets. And with a clientele that includes Paul McCartney, Kylie, Liam Gallagher and Robbie Williams, you can’t go wrong.
36-40 Stanley St L1 6AL
Tucked away on Smithdown Road, Raggas might not be the most glamourous of restaurants, but its food certainly packs a punch. You can’t book a table (you’re better off taking your food home with you or ordering takeaway) but you can enjoy some incredible authentic Caribbean food made to the exacting recipe of Jamaica-born Raggas.
Started after Raggas and his friend Verdain decided that Liverpool was crying out for good, original and fresh Caribbean cuisine, they set about providing Smithdown Road with the same food Raggas had become legendary for in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Now run by co-founder Verdain and his family (Raggas recently moved back to Jamaica), the cafe offers Caribbean classics including curried mutton, ackee n’ saltfish and jerk chicken, served up with rice and peas, steamed veg, jerk gravey and callaloo (Jamaican spinach).
58 Smithdown Road L7 4JG
5. The Italian Club Restaurants
With three restaurants in Liverpool’s city centre, the Crolla family have truly embraced Liverpool as their home.
Moving here more than 17 years ago from Picinisco near Rome, via Glasgow, Rosaria Crolla and her family have built a miniature empire of The Italian Club ‘Trattoria’ in the city. From their pasta-focused debut to their fish-based restaurant at the top of Bold Street, they’ve never stopped working towards a dream of providing Scousers with the best Scottish-Italian food found anywhere in the UK.
They know run The Italian Club and The Italian Club Fish, on Bold Street, as well as a bakery in the same area of town.
Born from the love of good food, fine wine and family, the three restaurants continue to offer a true taste of Italy, serving up dishes in the way Italians would eat them in the villages and mountains of the Apennines with authentic Italian ingredients and great tasting food.
85 Bold Street L1 4HF
There’s a legend surrounding Lark Lane’s Maranto’s restaurant – rumour has it that this family-run restaurant was the first to bring American-style BBQ ribs to the shores of the Mersey in 1985.
Owned by the Italian-American Maranto clan, this South Liverpool Trattoria has become a firm foodie favourite in the city since it introduced Scousers to the wonders of tender pork ribs.
Serving classic pizzas, authentic pasta and risotto dishes and plenty of state-side burger options from their Grade-II listed Victorian building for over 35 years, it’s the perfect place to head for a hearty, home-cooked meal just like Mamma used to make.
And the building has plenty of history as well: before becoming the Italian restaurant we know and love, it was used by a diverse range of occupants including a chemist, a Plumbers, a Hosier merchant and even a chapel.
57-63 Lark Lane L17 8UP
Tucked away on the corner of Leece Street is a Liverpool food institution that’s stood the test of time.
Zorbas Restaurant was founded right back in 1974 by Haralambos Michael and has served authentic Greek-Cypriot cuisine ever since.
Offering a self-described ‘down-to-earth’ and ‘non-pretentious’ setting to enjoy quality Grecian food, the restaurant is instantly recognizable with it’s traditional white and blue painted front reminiscent of the picturesque Mediterranean islands.
Now towered over by modern developments, Zorbas has stood its ground against the changing landscape of Liverpool and continues to offer traditional recipes that the owners were taught by their Yiayia (grandmother).
From Taramossalata to Spanakopita (spinach and feta pastries), all your favourite holiday meals are served, along with a little bit of history. According to the menu Kleftiko – or slow roasted lamb – was created in the 1800s, when Greek revolutionary guerillas would steal a lamb and cook it in a hole packed with soil to stop smoke escaping and giving their position away!
1 Leece Street L1 2TR
8. Signature Living Restaurants
The Bastion Bar and Restaurant, Carpathia Rooftop Champagne Bar and Restaurant, Mulholland Diner and Alma de Cuba – what do these four Liverpool eateries have in common? They’re all run by a family-owned company that puts family values at the heart of everything it does.
When Katie and Lawrence Kenwright first opened an apartment in the heart of Liverpool, their wildest dreams couldn’t imagine that it would grow to become a nationwide hospitality provider with hotels and restaurants across the UK. But that’s exactly what happened in the decade that Signature Living has grown.
And success hasn’t changed how their family-friendly restaurants are run – family is still at the heart of everything they do. Whether you’re heading for a fine-dining experience at Carpathia’s rooftop restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, or looking for a half-term day-out at the UK’s first singing diner, you’ll find the Kenwright’s Signature touch at all their eateries (and you might even spot their family enjoying the delectable dishes served).
From the Latin-American inspired menu at Alma de Cuba, to the tasty state-side food served with a side of musical accompaniment at Mulholland Bar, each restaurant offers a unique dining experience. Eat surrounded by memorabilia from the life and legacy of LFC legend Bill Shankly at The Bastion, or discover the history of the Titanic ship inside the grade-II* listed Carpathia while enjoying views of Liverpool’s stunning skyline.
When good friends Miguel and Antonio first decided to take over a small venue on Campbell Square in Liverpool, they were warned that its hidden location would spell the end for their restaurant business before they’d even begun.
But, quietly confident, the two friends persevered and out of the doubts (and the hard-work of their families) grew one of Liverpool’s most successful Italian restaurants – Amalia. Built and decorated by the hands of parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and friends, the eatery is one of Liverpool’s most popular Italian establishments.
Serving award-winning pizzas and traditional Italian dishes inspired by recipes from Sardinia-born Antonio’s mother and grandmother, family is the secret ingredient to every meal the pair serve. They proudly state that all their staff are regarded as family, and refuse to call visitors customers, instead welcoming them into the fold of the Amalia clan.
From authentic Italian pasta dishes to classic pizza favourites, nobody leaves their restaurant without a full belly and an even fuller heart.
2 Campbell Square L1 5FB
10. The Quarter
Well known as one of Liverpool’s best brunching spots, you might be surprised to find out that The Quarter is a family-run restaurant.
Taking inspiration from Italian cuisine, this cute bistro-style venue on the cobbles of Falkner Street is famous for its contemporary European dishes and friendly vibe. Serving everyone from students to famous faces (including LFC manager Jurgen Klopp), it has extended three times since it was opened thanks to an enduring popularity and some delectable dishes on the meal.
Owned, and run, by Gary Manning and his brother Colin, head to this Italian establishment for stone-baked pizzas, modern twists on pasta classics and fabulous grazing selections of Italian antipasti.
And if you’re impressed by the Manning’s food, make sure you check out their other two Georgian Quarter eateries: head to HOST on Hope Street for pan-Asian delights and 60 Hope Street for elegant European cuisine.
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