Think of an Italian restaurant and what immediately springs to mind? Red and white gingham tablecloths? Old Chianti bottles covered with melted candle wax? A few faded pictures of the Trevi fountain?
Not so Mezzo!
Located in the former Halfway House on the busy road through Samlesbury (Mezzo means half in Italian – you see what they did there?) the old pub is now unrecognisable. Gone is the dark, cosy inn and it’s place is a sharp, white rendered building with a double height angular bay window that would have Kevin McCloud waxing lyrical.
My star ratings out of five:
Consistently high quality food and efficient, friendly service
Inside, the restaurant is spread over various levels. It’s all shiny surfaces, wooden floors and crisp white tablecloths and upstairs the restaurant opens out on to a roof terrace with patio heaters, outdoor rattan furniture and some great views across the countryside to the rear.
As it was early on a Saturday evening when we arrived the bright and welcoming bar was quiet but had a real ‘wine bar’ feel; it would be equally as nice as a meeting place for just drinks. Passing the open-plan kitchen, we were shown straight to our table which was clean, spacious and simply laid with artfully folded napkins. Nibbling on the bread-sticks, we were given plenty of time to choose from the extensive menu and drinks were soon on their way, my glass of red wine being particularly good quality for a house variety.
Between us to start we opted for garlic mushrooms for Him, a garlic bread with tomato for The Younger and for me, Verdure Fritte –battered fresh vegetables served with garlic mayonnaise.
Everything arrived surprisingly quickly and was simply but nicely presented.
The large garlic bread was beautifully crispy on the edges and bottom and had a sweet and not too garlicky topping while the mushrooms were buttery, juicy and sizzling hot.
My veggies meanwhile (top right) were a delicious jumble of strange shapes, fresh, tasty and in an incredibly light, pale batter. Definitely one I’ll be having again.
After a nice bit of breathing time, the main courses arrived – again hot and very fresh.
The Younger’s pasta was in a simple tomato sauce, just as she likes it and, “The best spaghetti I have ever eaten!”
Opposite, the perfectly proportioned Piccante pizza presented a spicy topping which included a new ingredient on us, nduja. This we later learned, is a type of spreadable salume but it added a fiery, deep almost licorice smokiness to a top quality pizza.
My Gamberoni alla Sarda (pan fried tiger prawns, right) seemed a slightly smaller portion upon comparison but Mrs Eyes-Bigger-Than-Her-Belly was soon put in her place!
Huge meaty prawns were complemented by a rich sauce of soft tomatoes, white wine, garlic and basil. All served with a dome of al dente rice it was much more filling than I had anticipated. The only thing it may have lacked was some black pepper – they’re usually waving an enormous grinder at you in Italian restaurants so I think we must have been missed out this time.
After a quick explore of the roof terrace to catch the sun going down, the dessert menu had arrived.
Unfortunately the last tiramisu had gone so while I could only manage an Amaretto ice-cream the other two opted for a large chunk of chocolate fudge cake (left)which was light and spongy with a thick velvety filling and drizzled with chocolate sauce. My ice cream was also plentiful and had a soft granular texture from the ground almonds, a lovely sweet finish to the meal.
The final bill came to just under £85 for three courses and two drinks each, which whilst on the expensive side, reflected the consistently high quality food and efficient, friendly service.
Sometimes it seems, you do get what you pay for.