Gabriele’s, Queen’s Parade, Sunderland

Gabrieles, Queen's Parade, Seaburn, Sunderland.

Gabrieles, Queen's Parade, Seaburn, Sunderland.

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Made to feel like part of the family

Consistency is what I like about Gabriele’s. My family has visited this seafront restaurant for years.

The food has always remained reliably good, so it seemed an apt choice of restaurant when we were looking for hearty food on an autumnal afternoon.

Murals of Italian vistas don the walls of Gabi’s, in Queen’s Parade, alongside Dean Martin song lyrics and numerous football shirts.

The mismatch of decor is just as familiar as the food and makes it feel as though you’re sitting in an old relation’s living room.

Settling at a table to decide what to choose, we were presented with three menus – one happy-hour special, one lunch-time special, and one standard menu.

I settled on bruschetta (£2.50) from the regular menu and my friends chose mozzarella salad (£4) from the specials board, and minestrone soup (£2.50) from the lunch-time menu.

They arrived fairly quickly and mine was just what I was expecting.

The bruschetta consisted of two thick slices of bread topped with freshly-chopped tomatoes and tasty herbs, accompanied by salad.

The minestrone soup was piping hot and packed with vegetables and pasta, while the mozzarella salad was laden with thick slices of creamy cheese, juicy tomatoes and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

It looked so tasty I had to sample the cheese.

Empty plates whipped away, there were a few minutes to let the first course digest before the second was delivered.

I had opted for the pollo flip flap (£14.50) from the standard menu, with a half portion of tagliatelle, rather than chips or vegetables.

The dish combines succulent chicken and prawns in a light creamy tomato sauce, with a touch of brandy, and was delicious with the al dente pasta.

One of my fellow diners chose the classic pollo cacciatore (£8) with vegetables from the lunch menu, and the other tagliatelle pescatore (£8) from the standard menu.

The pollo cacciatore was said to be rich and tasty, with onions and a wine sauce, while the pescatore was heaped with prawns and mussels in a thick tomato sauce.

After generous helpings for starter and main course we couldn’t finish the meals, so there was some food left on the plates, which were quickly cleared by the host.

Despite letting our stomachs settle, in the hope of being able to order a tempting dessert – tiramisu, coconut ice cream and a classic banana split to name a few – the portions had defeated us.

The family-friendly feel and traditional cooking at Gabriele’s has proved a winning combination for years.

It’s no wonder people keep going back.

Monica Turnbull