9 April 2011

Gianni's

Food ✪
Service ✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪

Gianni’s
3 Market Place
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 1HG
01670 511547

www.giannis-ristorante.com

Gianni’s, up a tiny staircase in Morpeth’s Market Place, sits in a time-warp. I first tried “continental” food at the age of nineteen: “avocado prawns” followed by spaghetti Bolognese.

In those days, people liked prawn cocktail, lasagna and ice cream “bombs”: all the restaurants had red tablecloths. They’d have loved Giannis.
The people of Morpeth obviously still do: it’s packed most evenings, and it doesn’t take reservations, which encourages people to wait and drink in the small bar.

There’s a great atmosphere, but the menu is as tired as the plastic it’s wrapped in. There’s minestrone soup, parma ham with melon…it’s like embracing a very old uncle. There’s no real fish on the menu – just prawns and trout – and the only meat is chicken or sirloin steak. The pizzas are frightful: bready and dry.

We tried cannelloni: ground beef, mulched to a puree and mixed with pulped spinach, which had the consistency of baby food that the smearing of béchamel did nothing to improve. Vegetable risotto was disastrous: peppers swam in a tomato and cream sauce “finished with white wine” – don’t they know you put the wine in first?

But the staff were friendly, there was a fresh rose and a candle on every table, and prawns cooked in butter and garlic with rosemary were very acceptable, as was the mozzarella, which was light as the best bufalo.

I can see why it’s popular: the ambience is homely and service is friendly – a perfect, nostalgic escape from the 21st century.

For dessert there was “choco lumpy bumpy” and Baileys cheesecake – both tasted of cash ‘n carry. But the tiramisu was fresh and better than in many Italian restaurants. It’s a fiver for a starter, less than £7 for pasta, and £15 for steak or prawns.

All the wines we tried to order from the menu had gone. Instead, they made us try one on special offer: Salice Salentino from Puglia. At only £14.95, it was a bargain, and the only authentic Italian in the place.

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