Mama’s Italian Kitchen, Houghton Road, Newbottle

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THE last time I came for a meal here – for a friend’s birthday – it was empty.

 The only people around were the waiters and kitchen staff who quietly went about sweeping the floors and shining glasses.

 Although I remember it being a satisfactory meal, the place lacked any kind of atmosphere, and on leaving that night you departed with the feeling that it was an eatery on the slide.

 Almost five years later, this place has been transformed.

 Now with new owners and called Mama’s Italian Kitchen, the restaurant buzzes with activity from the moment you first step in.

 To say it’s been given a lick of paint is an understatement, as decor and surroundings have improved hugely.

 And the food smacked of maximum effort and dedication from the first bite.

 I went for the relatively straightforward potato skins first, and was presented with a generous helping.

 The garlic it came with was full of flavour.

 For my main course I opted for a lasagne.

 It’s a dish I’ve had before at Italian restaurants in the past, but this one was top notch, the béchamel and mozzarella carefully blended with the meat which left me feeling full.

 Once I’d finished I thought that maybe a dessert would be too much, but at the staff’s insistence I decided to give the Baileys cheesecake a try.

 I’m glad I took their advice.

 It was the size of a kerb and delicious to boot.

 It also came as something of a surprise to see the place full to the brim as we ate.

 Although we visited on a midweek evening and the fact that the owners only opened the restaurant in its current form a matter of months ago, word of mouth seems to have got around fast.

 The dining rooms and car park were jam-packed by the time we left, which must be testament to the top notch quality of food, presentation and unfussy but attentive service which Mama’s Italian Kitchen looks to be building its reputation on.

 Price is an added bonus, with three courses for three people, including drinks, coming in at just under £45 altogether.

David Allison