8 April 2011


Food ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪

Ristorante Fratelli
Bell Villas
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE20 9BE 01661 872195


[RE-REVIEW 2014:  A generous portion of mushrooms, with garlic butter, lemon and parsley offered a comforting starter, with home-baked toasted bread, but the star of the menu is their linguine scoglio - a seafood pasta that's rich, spicy, buttery, and almost inexpressibly delicious.  With mussels, tiger and king prawns chilli and fresh baby tomatoes, served with perfectly al dente linguine, this is one of the finest red seafood pastas I've tried, in or out of Italy. Prepared by a Spanish chef, apparently - you could certainly taste Mediterranean flair in the cooking.

I ended the meal with a very good board of Italian cheeses - quality aged pecorino shone together with a silky soft spicy version, this could be a meal in itself, to be enjoyed with one of their rare Sardinian or Puglian wines from the secret cabinet.  Still thoroughly recommended for families - the Sunday lunch is only £8.95 for adults, and there's a magician to keep the kids amused. The staff are super-friendly, but just a little dozy at the moment (it's hard to get experienced staff out to Ponteland) - they brought me the wrong starter twice.  But you can't get cross in such a nice atmosphere.]  

A few days ago I went to Sainsbury’s in Ponteland. Not the supermarket, but the Italian upstairs.

Fratelli is the young trendy sister of Sabatini on Newcastle’s quayside, owned by Fabrizio Saba and his brother-in-law Paul Bernardelli. Unlike Secco, there’s a lift, and once inside, the place is enormous. It’s bright and friendly and has a lively cocktail bar. The menu is also large.  Newcastle United footballers mingle with pensioners enjoying happy hour pizzas.  It's great for parties, from children to weddings.

Not all of the cooking works: some of the mains are pretty ordinary (though I enjoyed sea bass with mussel and saffron risotto, and I’m always pleased to see veal on a menu), but there are some gems. The pizzas are beyond good: thin and light crusts, thick with topping. Of the many pasta choices, the most outstanding is linguini con polpette. These spicy pork and beef meatballs would make Tony Soprano cry. Linguine scoglio, with prawns, mussels and chilli, is authentic, spicy and fresh.  There are daily set menus, and a large range of £7.95 happy hour pastas.  I also recommend penne fratelli:  chicken with pesto, pine nuts and mascarpone.  Starters include a fine fritto misto and king prawns cooked in parsley butter, garlic and chili.  Salt and pepper squid comes with garlic mayonnaise.

What’s most impressive is Fratelli’s ability to maintain this standard in such an enormous restaurant. Even when it’s packed (which is most evenings), the service is fast and friendly and the cooking consistent. Fabrizio is Sardinian, and so are the best offerings on his extensive wine list, but he also has a secret off-list hoard in glass cabinets. Don’t tell him I told you.  Service is speedy, friendly and attentive.  Most waiters are Italian or Portuguese.  Children are very welcome - they have a magician during Sunday lunch.

Please don’t try the tiramisu: it’s worse than Secco’s.

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