40 Bridge Street
01670 514 111
Gluten free? Yes
When we were kids, any birthday, holiday or high day tended to mean one thing: a trip to the local Italian restaurant. Always the same one, with the same waiters, same food, same everything. My family didn’t eat out that much so our very being there was in itself an exciting treat.
I’m sure you know the sort of place I’m on about: red table cloths, pepper grinders as long as your arm, spoonfuls of pre-grated “parmesan” offered with everything, pizzas with dubious toppings (my uncle always got the Bolognese, a plain cheese pizza with a fair sized hillock of meat ragu plopped on top), tricolour candles poked into chianti bottles.
Obviously the food was never that great, but it tasted fabulous to us at the time, because it was different to what we had at home. I loved that I could order from a proper grown-up menu, and I can still recall that heady waft of garlic fumes as we walked through the door.
Best of all, I loved that we were welcomed like long lost royalty. The staff - all chaps back then of course - seemed ridiculously busy, but always had enough time to make a fuss over us kids and flirt outrageously with Mum before delivering armloads of pizza to the next table. And best of all, I loved the sick nervous thrill of going on my birthday, knowing that at some point the restaurant would be silenced by the ringing of a massive bell, I’d be hoisted up to stand on my chair and the whole place would sing me a hearty happy birthday.
The genius of Italian restaurants like this is that the whole family eats as one. This was how the diners of tomorrow learnt the essential grammar of eating out. Lollo Rosso in Morpeth is exactly that kind of place too: the ultimate family restaurant. Except that the food’s rather better than I remember our local Italian.