New opening Prezzo now vying for slice of the action
With 170 restaurants in towns and cities across the UK, the only real surprise about Italian chain Prezzo finally opening in Bristol is the fact it took them so long.
With Jamie's Italian, Carluccio's, Strada, Piccolino, Pizza Express and other Italian- inspired chains vying for the same piece of the pizza, it's certainly a saturated market.
Opening a 156-seat restaurant next to the 1,000-cover Za Za Bazaar eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet restaurant might be seen as a brave step by Prezzo, which has moved into the impressive former Victorian leadworks previously occupied by the Firehouse Rotisserie.
Although the fabric of this listed building hasn't changed itself, almost £500,000 has been spent on the restaurant, with new leather banquettes, wood panelling and a mirrored wall complementing the existing exposed stone and brick walls and the tall, arched windows.
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The central open kitchen has a new pizza oven, complete with flames, which adds to the theatre of the place.
I'm sure the menu at Prezzo is pretty much the same whether you are ordering from it in Bristol, Southport or East Grinstead.
It's standard Italian chain restaurant fare, kicking off with the well-worn path of starters like calamari; king prawns in chilli, garlic and tomato sauce; bruschetta and minestrone – although the latter hadn't been delivered, so was off the menu. Mains take in the usual choice of pizza/calzone, pasta, risotto, salads and dishes from the grill.
A starter of crab cakes (£5.65) served with garlic mayonnaise was fine in that the two crisp-coated cakes tasted of crab and the mayonnaise was fairly garlicky.
The crab cakes were a little greasy, as if they had been fried rather than cooked in the oven.
My pollo mariano (£9.95), one of Prezzo's new dishes, was enormous – the sort of never-ending baked pasta dishes that would happily feed a family of four in a Tuscan hilltop village. Beneath the melted cheese topping, the tomato sauce-coated fusilli mingled with pieces of tender chicken, thick slices of pepperoni sausage and roasted red and yellow peppers. A light option it was not.
Like the minestrone and a couple of other dishes, the chocolate profiteroles hadn't been delivered, but a second- choice dessert of lemon torte (£4.95) with a biscuity base and silky, zesty filling was a refreshing finale to what had been a belt-straining dinner at a fair price.