Sabatini Ristorante, King Street, Newcastle

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SABATINI’s celebrates its 18th year on Newcastle’s Quayside this year.

As it comes of age, the popular Italian restaurant has become something of an institution.

That’s hardly surprising. The restaurant has a classy feel to it, with a tastefully-decorated eating area, first-rate service and superb food.

The restaurant is long and narrow, but its textured brown wallpaper, tiled floor and subdued lighting give it an appealing intimacy. The murals on the ceiling echo the Sistine Chapel.

There is a welcoming bar area, which usually has sofas in front of a fireplace, but the area was catering for a private party on our visit.

There is plenty of choice on the substantial menu and the attentive staff were only too happy to make their own recommendations. There is also a hefty wine list.

I paid a visit with my 15-year-old son, who chose a starter of seafood in a spicy garlic and chilli sauce. The dish – insalata di mare – included prawns, mussels and clams.

I opted for the bread basket. This was a rather filling starter and comprised four large slices of thick Italian white bread, Sardinian crispbread and plenty of breadsticks. The bread was served with a wonderful balsamic vinegar and a thick olive oil.

I then had tournedos di Manzo, fillet steak glazed with Italian cheese and parma ham, served in a red wine sauce. This was truly delicious, the parma ham and strong dolcelatte cheese mixing well with the perfectly-cooked steak. I had the roasted Mediterranean vegetables to go with the steak.

My son chose malloredus calorfortina, which was small pasta shells with Sardinian sausange, chilli, saffron and tomato. His portion was on the healthy size of large and he declared his dish “fine”.

We both had room for a dessert. On the waiter’s recommendation, my son tried an Italian chocolate sponge, which was served with vanilla ice cream. The chocolate dish was extremely light and very tasty.

I had a trio of ice creams, which the waiter proudly told me were imported from Italy. The ice cream was very creamy and full of flavour, especially the strawberry.

I finished a lovely meal with a good tall latte.

We had three rounds of soft drinks and the bill came to just under £60.

So it’s not cheap, but the quality of food and dining experience is unquestionable.