Pani’s, High Bridge Street, Newcastle

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Bustling and ever popular, this well-established Italian restaurant has been a favourite of mine for many years.

Freshly-cooked, authentic food, speedy service tempered by a relaxed atmosphere keeps drawing me back.

This time it was with a pal who was a Pani’s novice who I brought down the cobbled side street.

A sunny Saturday afternoon had pulled in crowds of diners, so we were shown to a table near the back of the restaurant, which is crowded with trinkets from the homeland, which embellished its homely vibe.

Pushed for time, we ordered a starter and main course to share.

Pani’s antipasto (£7.95) was more than enough for two people – with the plate piled high with creamy hunks of mozzarella, silken slices of pepperoni, piquant sun-dried tomatoes and a tastebud-pleasingly fresh seafood salad of calamari, huge mussels and jumbo prawns.

Despite the ample offering, we also chose crespelle con ricotta e spinaci – crepes filled with ricotta cheese, spinach, mozzarella and tomato (£6.10).

It was definitely a comfort-food dish which we couldn’t finish, despite its delicious blend of flavours.

Even though I’ve been dining at Pani’s for many years, I still haven’t worked my way through the menu – a vast array of traditional dishes which proves there’s more to Italian food than pizza, which don’t appear on the menu at all.

Instead there’s a selection of topped flatbreads, home-made pork sausages, pan-fried seabass and more, all for under £10 between 10am-5pm.

For anyone with a sweet tooth, there’s also a long list of sinful cakes and ice creams to indulge in.

With a soft drink each, our meal came to exactly £18.

Jane O’Neill