Entering an empty restaurant can fill you with dread, and that’s exactly what happened during a trip to Gusto Vero.
The long-established city centre eatery, in John Street, was the venue of choice for a change of scenery on our Friday evening visit, but was disappointingly quiet.
Despite this lack of atmosphere, enticing smells and friendly staff encouraged us to give it a chance.
To get our palates anticipating what delights the kitchen had to offer, the staff brought out a complimentary garlic bread (£3.45) generously smothered with tomato and basil.
The menu, with dishes including a variety of meats, fish and plenty of carbohydrates, didn’t give any clues as to the lack of customers in the restaurant.
Starters arrived in great mounds. Bruschetta (£4.50) consisted of large slices of soft ciabatta with heaps of chopped tomato, basil, olive oil, ground sea salt and shavings of parmesan cheese. It was just the right amount to get my appetite warmed up.
My fellow diners chose tasty funghi mamma mia (£4.25) which came presented in a piping hot heap and exuding strong scents of garlic.
Unfortunately, there were a few too many mushrooms to finish the appetiser.
Quattro colori (£6.20) salad comprised slices of creamy mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and rich Parma ham with a sprinkling of salty olives. It left diner number three bemoaning the fact she couldn’t finish it.
After the first course plates were whipped away by the attentive staff, there was only just time to refill the glasses with house sparkling rose (Pinot Grigio Mirabello Rose Spumante, £17.95) before the second course was placed before us.
I opted for the extravagant pollo Gusto Vero (£13.95) which sees succulent chicken breast stuffed full with prawns and rolled in ham, before being cut into thick slices and doused in rich creamy sauce.
The kitchen accepted the request to serve the flavoursome dish with a small portion of plain tagliatelle, rather than chips or vegetables.
The mighty portion of decadent chicken, however, defeated me.
Diner two opted for gamberoni inferno (£13.45). The giant, meaty shellfish was drenched in smooth, spicy tomato sauce and again served alongside a small portion of firm tagliatelle.
Piping hot penne trattoria (£7.95) came laden with slivers of chicken, mushrooms, and tangy slices of pepperoni, which thankfully didn’t flood the creamy tomato sauce with oil.
After swilling away the last flavours of garlic with final sips of chilled wine, there was no room for dessert.
We left stuffed to burst and pondering why this pleasant eatery, with its friendly reception and generous portions, was desolate on a Friday night.