- Credit: Archant
In a world of homogenised Italian restaurants where the menu never changes from town to town or city, Pinocchio's in Norwich is a real treat, writes RACHEL BULLER.
A long standing favourite in the city, not only does Pinocchio's serve great pizza and pasta, it has a fantastic Mediterranean inspired menu full of wonderful flavoursome meat and fish dishes.
With its classic décor and warm and friendly service, the restaurant always feels inviting and is as popular with couples as it is for groups of friends and even young families, embracing the Mediterranean ethos of everyone eating together.
For starters, there is the usual Italian fare, large platters of meats, cheeses, olives and breads perfect for sharing.
But if you want something a little different then there is plenty of choice.
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I went for the Caprese salad with Buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil oil and ciabatta, which came with delicious large slices of creamy mozzarella and lots of tasty, fresh tomatoes with just enough basil to bring it all together.
My husband chose the red onion, basil and ricotta parcels with smoked duck, Spanish paprika and micro herbs, which I thought sounded a bit of a strange, confusing plate of food.
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Of course, I ended up wishing I had chosen it. The duck was absolutely delicious and went perfectly with the neat little parcels which were full of flavour.
For main course, it is difficult to look beyond the heart bowls of pasta on the menu, but for once I thought I would break with tradition and chose the grilled fillet of sea bass with crushed new potatoes, green beans and chorizo. It was a close call between this and the pork fillet with slow cooked garlic and sage and roast butternut squash gnocchi, which also sounded lovely.
As with all the dishes at Pinocchio's, the portions are deceptively filling. The fish was delicious and came with lots of crispy, salty chorizo – perfect with the sea bass, although the potatoes could have done with a little more seasoning.
My husband opted for pasta and my usual favourite, the mouth-watering Conchiglie with slow cooked spicy Sicilian lamb ragu and vine fruits.
Rich, full of punchy flavours and smothered over large pasta shells, there is little to beat it. The lamb is so tender it just pulls apart and it is the sort of dish you can imagine being cooked in kitchens throughout Italy.
The pizza and pasta are all great value at just £8.95 a dish and include classics like Tagliatelle Carbonara and Lasagne as well as spaghettie with spicy mussels and homemade Gnocchi with dolce latte cream, peas, cavolo nero and breadcrumbs – a dish my friend swears by.
There are plenty of side dishes to choose from and the peas, mint, parmesan and pancetta is a good choice if you want something light.
If you can squeeze in a dessert, then don't miss the traditional Tiramisu and the honey and orange polenta cake with orange mascarpone. So indulgent, but so delicious.
Finish off with one of the special dessert wines or a coffee, but beware, by then you are likely to be sitting sleepily in your chair, feeling very content indeed.
St Benedict's Street
Open: Tue-Sat 12pm–2pm; Mon-Sat 5pm–11pm
Prices: Starters from £4.25, pizza and pasta, from £8.95, mains from £9.95. Breads, olives, salads and side dishes start at £2.25, desserts are £5.25. There is a special set menu, available Mon-Sat 5.30pm–7pm, two courses for £10.
Disabled access: Yes