TOO many years spent working part-time in a pizza shop has left me with an aversion to the Italian favourite.
Slabs of hot pizza were always on offer and after a couple of months of gorging, I’d had enough.
However, Pizza Express in Newcastle was the choice of friends visiting the North East for a wedding and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.
Rushing from work, my pals had already arrived, polished off a plate of olives and opened a bottle of Pinot Blush.
Menu-wise, obviously pizza and pasta, but there’s also lighter options, with the leggera – or light – a range of five pizzas that come in at about a waist-pleasing 500 calories.
The clever clogs at Pizza Express remove the centre of these slimmer-friendly dishes and stuff them full of salad.
I went for a mare e monti – king prawns, mushrooms, red onions, olives, light mozzarella and cajun spices.
Joining me in the quest for healthy scoff was one of my friends who chose the leggera vendure – red and yellow peppers, courgettes, mushrooms, rosemary, sweet baby onions with light mozzarella and garlic oil.
Our other pal stuck with a classic four seasons, combining mushrooms, pepperoni, anchovies, capers, mozzarella and olives, in four different quarters.
However, she wanted the toppings spread across the whole pizza and a portion of rocket adding, which the waiter assured her was no problem.
But when it arrived the rocket was missing, although the toppings had been scattered about as requested.
All the pizzas were perfectly pleasant, with the concept more memorable than the taste.
Having saved so many calories, our attentions turned to pudding, specifically the dolcetti menu of mini puddings served with coffee.
I chose cafe reale – baby figs, cinnamon, white wine spiced syrup and mascarpone – with my dining companions going for a semi freddo – gelato dessert with nougat, praline and marsala wine – and a tartufo al cioccolato, or chocolate truffle icecream.
Bite-sized chunks of heaven, we all agreed, though sadly too small to share, or at least that’s my excuse.
The meal for three, plus drinks, came to about £47, thanks to a 40 per cent off voucher downloaded from the Pizza Express website.
It also has its own iPhone app, so diners can settle the bill by Paypal, which is useful for fellow eBay fanatics.