Restaurant review: Gianni's - Wine, woman and song
WHAT immediately strikes you when you walk through the door at Gianni's is the hearty Italian-style welcome and bustling atmosphere.
My girlfriend and I were given the full treatment – including a slap on the back and broad Mediterranean grin as we were ushered to our table.
It's a week night and although you might expect it to be quiet in this small corner of Royal Well Place there was a buzz of activity as most of the tables were occupied – definitely a good sign.
The interior is softly-lit and cosy and it feels like the ideal venue for an intimate meal with a loved one.
We got straight to the menu where we could choose from a range of traditional Italian fare.
Creature of habit that I am, I ordered the bruschetta for a starter – slices of toasted artisan bread with a classic combination of chopped tomatoes, garlic, herbs and olive oil (£3.95).
My girlfriend loves seafood and her eye was immediately caught by the cozze alla meuniere – fresh mussels in a creamy white wine and herb sauce (£7.05).
While I ate the bruschetta with an ice-cold Italian lager, the lady chose a glass of the house white to complement her dish.
It was the ideal way to kick things off and just whetted the appetite for more. For the main course I went for the penne puttanesca – a fiery pasta dish with garlic, capers, bacon and olives (£7.45) accompanied by a carafe of house red.
My girlfriend ordered the pesce spade alla marinara – swordfish cooked in white wine with a tomato sauce and mussels, prawns and cockles (£15.95).
Both our mains were extremely enjoyable. The pasta dish had just the right level of spice and the fish steak was meaty yet not overcooked.
For pudding we opted to share a limone ripieno, a real lemon with its flesh removed and filled with a cooling lemon sorbet (£4.95) – the perfect way to cleanse the palette.
Overall the food was unflashy but authentic – just how I like it.
The service was excellent and the waiters will even burst into song given any encouragement – a great touch which really adds to the sense of theatre.
The venue was started up by Italian pals Mario, Salvo, Vito and Sergio around 15 years ago and between them they share the jobs from front of house to the kitchen.
I asked Mario what he wants people to experience when they dine out at Gianni's.
He replied: "A taste of Italy – from the moment they walk through the door to the moment they leave."
And that is exactly what we got - bravo Gianni's! Delizioso.