ITALIAN restaurants are two a penny in Sunderland City Centre.
Of these, Roma may not be the longest running in town or the one that immediately comes to mind when you’re looking for a bite to eat, but I’ve got a soft spot for it.
After a busy shift at Echo Towers I visited on a Thursday evening with fellow Echoette Cara and her cute – but lively – whippersnapper Tate.
Unlike some restaurants, Roma is child-friendly and the waiter found us a spot where we could accommodate Tate’s buggy and even ran around after him as he fired toy cars and discarded raisins from his high-chair.
Roma’s not the largest of restaurants but it’s got a quaint charm of its own. It’s filled with kitsch Italian nick nacks with some rustic features thrown in for good measure.
It’s also pretty dark inside so it’s worth bearing in mind for cheap, candle-lit date nights.
The menu’s not as Italian-dominated as you would think and we spotted a fair few Greek dishes, but there’s still the usual pizza/pasta suspects in there.
I chose halloumi to start which comes in at £4.95. I don’t often find this Cypriot grilled cheese in Sunderland restaurants so it was a must-choose for me.
I was presented with four huge chewy chunks on a bed of salad which went down a treat.
Cara didn’t opt for an Italian starter either. Instead, she had a nicely presented gambas pil pil, a Spanish dish of tiger prawns in olive oil, garlic and chilli.
Though the menu seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, it’s vast and will have something to suit most palates.
I went with one of the Italian dishes – when in Roma ... – and ordered a carbonara pizza. At £6.95, it was only £2 more than my starter, and was good value for money.
I’ve never eaten a pizza with egg on the top before, but it worked, and it arrived top heavy with bacon.
Cara, meanwhile, chose from the specials board and had a chef’s special steak.
The fillet steak in rosemary and red wine sauce, topped with tiger prawns on rosemary skewers, was beautifully presented.
For research purposes, I sampled the steak from across the table. It was deliciously tender and was complemented with a rich sauce that earned it the thumbs up from both of us.
Though pricey at £21.95 it was more special than my dish and was worth the extra pounds.
Cara’s choice tipped our bill past the £50 mark and with wine and a side dishes our bill was £54.80.
This, however, is the most I’ve ever spent in Roma. It’s usually a safe bet for a cheap and cheery meal, particularly the happy hour menu which has starters for just £2.45 and pizzas and pastas for £4.45.
Lunchtime visitors can bag a real bargain with two courses for £5.95.