REVIEW: Simply Italy, Derwent Street, Sunderland

Simply Italy - Derwent Street, Sunderland.
Simply Italy - Derwent Street, Sunderland.
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THREE Italian restaurants in one street means you’ve got to knock up good pizza and pasta to survive. Will this new kid on the block pass muster?

Eately, just a stone’s throw from Tosca and Sorrento, has shut up shop to be replaced by Simply Italy.

It’s a new city centre venture from the perennially-popular Santini’s, in Seaburn, who have branched out to bring their family-friendly approach to Mediterranean dining across the water.

Simply Italy is decorated as you would expect from an Italian restaurant – think dark wooden chairs and napkins in wine glasses – but it has been lightened up from its previous guise.

Despite it being a mid-week evening, the place was bustling. Probably thanks to a sandwich board outside promoting three courses for just under a tenner, an offer which runs every night except Saturdays.

There’s a good range of basic Italian fare on this menu from the usual suspects: garlic mushrooms, calamari, chicken, pizzas and pastas et al.

Its promise of plenty of grub with change from a £10 note almost reeled us in, but we were swayed at the last minute by the seafood on the a la carte menu.

The latter offers more choice than most of its culinary counterparts, especially in the starters menu, which is split into a raft of sections: garlic breads, soups and salads, appetisers, seafood and gamberoni.

It was the incongruous Greek starter of houmous with a peri peri sauce that won me over – Simply Italy in name only then.

It’s cheap at £2.95. Indeed, the bulk of the starters are more than reasonably priced, with bruschetta coming in at £2.45 and liver pâté also £2.45.

At that price, I wasn’t expecting a large portion. I was wrong.

We had to wait a little while for our starters to arrive, but our wait was rewarded with gargantuan portions.

I was presented with a pool of houmous with warmed-through pitta soldiers.

Though I would have liked a little more kick from the piri piri, there was no denying this was value for money.

My friend too was impressed with the size of her starter. Though her seafood option of a cornetto of smoked salmon and prawns topped with Marie Rose sauce was only £3.95, she received a huge mound of slither upon slither of salmon, encasing a bountiful supply of prawns.

There was no skimping on the mains either – this is restaurant dining for the seriously hungry.

Seabass is normally fairly expensive, but it’s well priced here at £9.95.

I was presented with a large fillet of the main ingredient, which was encircled by mussels and topped with large prawns, all prettily presented and garnished with green sprigs.

The seafood was complemented, but not over-powered, by a lemon and white wine sauce that was just the right side of rich.

It was deliciously moreish, but the belly-busting portions meant I struggled to clear my plate.

My friend tucked into a parma ham pizza, yet another purse-pleasing option at £4.95.

With not a crumb remaining on her dish, her choice was a success, though it’s hard to get a pizza wrong.

With good food at good prices, I think it’s safe to say Simply Italy has staying power on this street.