San Marino: Chester Road, Sunderland

San Marino Italian Restaurant - Chester Road, Sunderland.

San Marino Italian Restaurant - Chester Road, Sunderland.

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IT’S true when they say, looks can be deceiving. The exterior of San Marino Italian Restaurant, on Chester Road, doesn’t do justice to the treats it has inside.

I have fond memories of making regular visits when I was younger, but have to be honest and say I don’t go as much now.

However, after choosing to visit recently, I was delighted to find the food is still just as good as when the restaurant opened its doors in 1996 – and what’s more, it has been given a face-lift.

Olive green walls dotted with black and white photographs bring the décor bang up-to-date, and it still has homely Italian charm with a mural – hand-painted by the owner’s daughter – adorning one wall.

The generous menu has all the usual favourite dishes and the specials board has more exotic variations.

Braving the Arctic temperatures of the last few weeks, friends Leigh and Hannah and I ducked into the wee restaurant to catch up and warm up over some hearty Italian food.

Two portions of gamberoni (£7.95 each) one with chilli and tomato (diavola), the other with white wine and garlic (al aglio), were delicious to start, as well as one order of garlic pate mushrooms (£5.90).

The main courses were just as good.

I opted for mushroom ravioli from the specials board (£7.95). The home-made pasta and filling were rich and tender and as I love mushrooms, it was a perfect choice.

Other orders were spaghetti polpette (£8.45), consisting of tasty meatballs in a tomato and chilli sauce, and tortellini crema (£7.45), which is small pasta shells packed with meat in a light, creamy sauce

Both dishes received high praise and to wash it all down we ordered a bottle of house rose wine (£10.95).

Overall, the verdict was excellent. The food and drinks menus are reasonably priced, however, if you’re feeding a family, or just want a cheap meal, happy hour is not to be sniffed at.

Three courses cost £9.95 and any pizza or pasta costs £4.95. Happy hour runs from 5pm to 7pm.

Monica Turnbull