REVIEW: Marcello’s, Albion Place, Sunderland

Marcellos Italian Restaurant, Vine Place, Sunderland.
Marcellos Italian Restaurant, Vine Place, Sunderland.
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AS the old adage goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Such is the case at Marcello’s.

I’ve visited countless times throughout the years, my taste buds safe in the knowledge that they know what they’re going to get – reliably good Italian food.

A post-work tea in Sunderland city centre last Thursday night proved a bag of mixed fortunes for a colleague and I. One pub said its chef wasn’t working for a week, another venue was fully booked. It was feast or famine for us hungry diners.

After trudging around the town on a forage for food, Marcello’s welcomed us with open arms.

It’s a large site and one that’s split into a trio of eating areas, each with their own decor. Personally, I prefer the entrance room with its almost Wedgewood blue colour scheme and black and white family photos playfully dotted around the walls.

On this visit, however, we were led to the back room which has a more neutral palette. It means your eyes are drawn to the locally-painted artworks, depicting everything from ballerinas to Jimi Hendrix, which adorn the walls. Painted by one of the owner’s family members, they’re available to buy for those who want to take a painting home with their boxed-up pizza. It all helps to create a homely feel in this established eatery.

After our wasted time trying to find somewhere to eat, we’d missed happy hour, which runs from 5pm to 7pm on evenings, but the main menu won’t break the bank.

There are some pricy starters, but you pay for quality, as I found out. My starter was £6.25 for three tightly-packed, pretty parcels – slabs of warmed-through mozzarella ensconced in parma ham on a bed of fresh, peppery rocket. A herb garnish added some colour and a light complementary flavour.

Dining chum Jane tucked into her equally satisfying starter of scallops from the specials menu.

No skimping on portions here – her pan-fried scallops with tiger prawns and salami with chopped tomatoes could have easily been a main course.

Hearty in size and a walloping mix of flavours, it packed a punch for a small price of £5.95.

There’s plenty to choose from in the main meal section: pizza, pasta, chicken, steak et al. There’s nothing too adventurous on there, but that’s not what you expect here. It was the specials menu which caught our eye. The grilled sea bass on rocket with mussels and tiger prawns reeled both of us in.

Service was prompt and attentive and it wasn’t long before we were both served our fishy feast. Though sea bass can often be pricy, this dish offered plenty for £13.95: a good-sized main dish with a side of either salad, cooked vegetables or 

The sea bass was perfectly mild and had been cooked so as to retain some of its moisture. I would have perhaps liked a few more prawns, but the two on the plate were a chunky, meaty affair.

The tomato sauce, served to the side of the sea bass, was the perfect accompaniment - juicy but not too over the top.

Special mention must also go to our post-dinner pick me up coffees.

At £1.90, my cappuccino was cheaper than coffee chains and was a rich blend that packed a proper punch.

Reliably good food and service: you can’t ask for more from Marcello’s.