REVIEW: Diego’s, Ashbrooke Sports Ground, Sunderland

Italian restaurant Diego's. Picture by FRANK REID
Italian restaurant Diego's. Picture by FRANK REID
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A classic English cricket and rugby club isn’t natural bedfellows with an Italian restaurant.

But you may be hit for six to find out that Diego’s at Ashbrooke Sports Club works.

Mozzarella and parma ham starter

Mozzarella and parma ham starter

Ashbrooke as a suburb is pretty bereft of local restaurants, but this one plugs a hole for those from the area who don’t want to walk into nearby town for a meal.

And, for the club, it helps to drive footfall to a historic ground that’s been in the city for more than 125 years.

In keeping with being housed within a sports and leisure club, it’s all very informal: the kind of cheap and cheerful place that’s perfect to take children. Especially when they’re running an offer of “kids can eat for a £1” which is cheap as chips. In fact, cheaper than chips.

We’d booked ahead for happy hour – which runs from 5pm to 6.45pm – and with space at a premium it’s best to do so. Despite it being a Wednesday night on our visit, it was still pretty busy with a steady stream of custom.

Italian restaurant Diego's. Picture by FRANK REID

Italian restaurant Diego's. Picture by FRANK REID

Decor is simple with a muted palette of various shades of brown, but it’s comfortable enough and it has the advantage of a window spanning one wall which offers views out over the lush green.

We spent too long gassing to make a prompt order, but service is relaxed here and our waitress didn’t seem to mind having to pop back a few times to make our order and didn’t make us feel like the happy hour clock was ticking.

The menu’s pretty concise, but is perfect if you’re after an affordable pizza/pasta option with the bulk of the menu offering two courses for £8.95. All the usual suspects are there with starter options such as potato skins and calamari and mains of lasagne and risottos.

For fancier dishes try the a la carte menu which offers king prawns and seabass cooked in a garlic and white wine sauce (£18.95), and steak served with melted blue cheese and a cream and béchamel sauce (£14.95). I chose from the specials board to start and went with the Involtini Di Mozzarella – mozzarella wrapped in parma ham served in a creamy garlic sauce with rocket (£5.95).

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

The tightly-packed parcels were plump with flavour and the sauce wasn’t too overpowering for the main ingredients. My friend had hoped to have the same, but they’d run out, which was disappointing. Still, her back-up choice of caprese made up for it when she was presented with a huge gooey mound of cheese.

She didn’t seem to have much luck as they also served her the incorrect mains of amatriciana instead of arrabbiata, which was quickly rectified as soon as the waitress spotted the pasta problem.

I’d asked for no cream with my choice of spaghetti carbonora and it was served just to my liking with simply bacon, egg and parmesen. Meanwhile, the swirl upon swirl of pasta, served in a bowl which was decorated with a drizzle of Diego’s signature (a nice, cutesy touch), was just like mamma makes.