The cheap and cheerful Italian ideal for a mate date - what we made of Roma in Sunderland
When in Roma, you can expect cheap and cheerful food at fair prices.
On a mid-week mate date we were after an informal restaurant where we could satisfy our rumbling tummies and have a good catch up.
Roma fitted the bill perfectly with a welcome almost as warm as the Mediterranean itself behind its wooden facade on Mary Street.
Sunderland city centre isn’t short on Italian restaurants, but this one is reliable for its friendly service and menu that won’t break the bank.
There’s certainly no mistaking its culinary country of origin with the decor, which is themed around the colours of the Italian flag: deep red walls, green doors and splashes of white on the tables.
Candles, wine bottles and other trinkets line the walls, as well as roof tiles to evoke the atmosphere of a trattoria from the old country.
It’s an old school Italian restaurant, but it helps to create the friendly atmosphere that’s helped Roma become one of the most popular – and longstanding – Italian eateries in the city.
The menu’s extensive with plenty on there for all palates.
Most starters come in around the £5 to £6 mark and range from classic potato skins (£4.95) and garlic bread (£3.95) to more meaty options such as black pudding (£4.95) and meatballs (£5.95).
Visit during Happy Hour, which runs daily from noon until 7pm, and you can shave some pounds off the price, with starters priced £3.95 and a grilled sirloin steak for £10.95.
I ordered from the specials board and was really impressed with my choice of scallops with Parma ham.
For £7.95 (I’ve certainly paid more for scallops), I was presented with four of the silky mollusks, their delicate flavour complemented by the saltiness of the cured ham.
They were served on satisfyingly chunky plates, none of your daft roof slates here.
The main menu is also huge with no less than 14 pasta options and 11 pizzas to choose from, as well as risottos, steaks, fish, fajitas and plenty of chicken choices.
Even the fussiest of diners could find something they would like on the menu.
I ordered a classic Parma pizza (£8.95).
It was huge and had a satisfyingly stonebaked base loaded with plenty of ham, rocket and shavings of Parmesan.
Wine menus at Italians of this ilk often just feature basic house options, but Roma has a surprisingly good range.
Our waitress was great at chatting through the options with us – her friendly service was faultless – and we enjoyed a Pinot Grigio, which was much crisper than the bog standard pub version.
For that real holiday feel, make sure to try the Roma cocktails.
Cocktail prices start from £5.95, all the usual suspects are on the menu – Piña Colada, Woo Woo and Cosmopolitan – but they’re all delivered with the fun, friendliness and fair price that’s become Roma’s signature style.