It’s easy to forget about the Italian Farmhouse, tucked beneath the Roker Hotel.
But despite its inconspicuous, basement exterior, it’s certainly one of the better Italians along Roker and Seaburn seafront.
Though its name screams rustic, The Italian Farmhouse is actually a more contemporary restaurant, with a quirky design that differs from its namesake sister restaurant in West Rainton.
Here, trendy brick-style tiling contrasts well with feature light signs spelling out ‘Pizza’ and Italian produce, such as strings of garlic bulbs, strung from the ceiling.
The star of the show is a giant wood-fired pizza oven area where one of the chefs hand-stretches the dough in front of you. It’s a particularly good feature if you have the kids in tow as little ones can make their own pizzas, which comes with an ice cream and drink for just a fiver.
I’d planned to put the oven to good use, but I was swayed by the other options on the menu. It’s got a bigger choice than most Italians and offers something a little different from the usual suspects, with starters such as crispy pork bon bons (£6.25) and goats cheese and red onion ravioli (£5.95) and mains that include white pizzas, a favourite I’ve had in Italy which I’ve struggled to find in North East Italians.
For diners who are watching their waistlines, there’s also a decent range of ‘Skinnylicious’ options which have reduced calories.
I was tempted by the sound of the guilt-free meals, but it was Saturday night so decided to park the diet and get stuck into the more sinful sounding dishes .
All meals start with gratis home-made bread with moreish dips of garlic cream cheese, chilli oil and garlic oil.
Next up, we got stuck into a sharing platter to start, which is pretty good value at £11.95 between two with plenty of slivers of various cured meats to go around, as well as hunks of gooey mozzarella, olives and chutney. It was perfectly satisfying taste-wise, our only quibble is that we could have done with more than two slices of bread for all that chutney.
For mains, I chose one of the pricier options of fillet steak (£20.95) but if you’re watching the pennies you can pick up a pizza from as little as £6.45.
I shaved off a few calories by choosing salad with the steak, but it comes with chips as standard, as well as a grilled mushroom, a sprig of cherry tomatoes and rocket with shavings of Parmesan.
The 7oz steak was beautifully buttery and just the right side of pink for my preference of medium rare.
My boyfriend had the half pizza / half pasta option and got more than he bargained for with not just half a pizza, but a large round of pepperoni pizza with just a small circle in the middle removed which was plugged with oodles of carbonara tagliatelle. You can try and count the calories here if you like, but those carbs are hard to turn down.