IT was my birthday, one of the few times in the year when the Wheeler family congregates for a clan meal.
Our destination this year? Martino’s in Seaburn.
I’ve eaten in its sister restaurant in Seaham which I enjoyed, so thought I would put the original branch of this Italian chain under the review spotlight.
It’s hard to believe the site was once a games arcade. Though the exterior kind of looks the same, the inside is unrecognisable from its former guise.
It’s split into three parts: a bar area, small pool hall and the restaurant itself.
While the bar and pool area are modern in style, the restaurant echoes the Italian theme of the food with a rustic, traditional look – faux frescoes and the like.
Despite having booked for five people, the table we were seated at felt more like one for four people.
We were a little cramped, but the food soon made up for it.
I ordered the sauteed queen scallops, which at £7.95 were the most expensive starter on the menu – but, what the heck, it was my birthday after all.
They were scrummy, full of flavour and nicely presented in a shell.
I tried some of my little brother’s starter too – steamed mussels in a spicy tomato sauce, £6.95 – which were just delicious.
Ma Wheeler’s bruschetta (£4.45) didn’t have much bread, but was top heavy with salad and paramesan shavings.
As you would expect from an Italian restaurant, the menu is loaded with pizza, pasta, chicken, fish and steak options.
I chose pizza, the quattro stagioni (£7.95). It had a fresh, home-cooked taste to the base with lashings of toppings – onions, peppers, ham and mushrooms.
My sister-in-law, Heather, also enjoyed her risotto cantadina, £7.45 – arborio rice with chicken and vegetables cooked in a vegetable and white wine stock.
In my opinion, mum’s dish was the true test. I’ve had some disastrous overly creamy spaghetti carbonaras, but this one was spot on and was very reasonably priced at £6.95.
For five of us, plus drinks, the bill came to £97. Not bad for good food at good prices.