Italian

Leonardo's - So, we'd been back from Italy for about a week. We'd gone to Waikikamookau for lunch a couple of days earlier and had the soul-destroying "salad". We felt beaten down by UK cuisine. I was craving pasta like we'd had in Sant'Agata, and I knew it was folly to go out on the streets of Brighton looking for a fix, but there was no other option. I think Ted was a bit worried that we'd try somewhere new and be served some crap and I'd have a nervous breakdown and demand to go home to Australia, but, thank god, the first Italian place we came across was Leonardo's. I'm not saying that this restaurant is just like your mamma's in Italy but it does a pretty decent impression. The bread is warm and fresh. The insalata caprese has good mozzarella and peppery rocket (nothing can save English tomatoes, unfortunately). The penne alla Siciliana was great - perfectly cooked pasta, and a light sauce of melting aubergine. I couldn't stop smiling while I was eating it. I'd probably skip the proffered parmesan next time, but it's not a big deal one way or the other. Also, I was in love with our silver-haired Italian waiter. I am so going back. Check out then link above for the full menu. 55 Church Rd Hove. 01273 328888. (July 2002)

Latin in the Lanes - The first time we went here, we couldn't understand why so many people had recommended it to us, most of them describing it as the best Italian in Brighton. The pasta had been fine, but not special, the spinach side had been apparently reheated from the supermarket freezer section, and the atmosphere was - well, lacking. The last of these can be easily remedied - just make sure you book a table in the friendly downstairs section, rather than the chilly and lonesome upstairs room which strangely feels a lot like a schoolroom. As for the food, I've had enough great dishes there now to cancel out my first impression, although I admit I haven't tried the spinach a second time to see if it really was an aberration as well as an abomination. Most highly recommended is the baked penne with aubergine, which is large and delicious, and the spinach and potato gnocchi with pesto sauce. These gnocchi are really sensational - they are stuffed, with a centre of spinach within the potato. They are also available with a walnut sauce, which is good but overpowering as it almost always is. The sides of asparagus with parmesan, fried courgettes, and grilled raddichio are all excellent. Marcel says the huge chunk of meat he ordered was pretty fine. Good gelati, too, especially the pistachio and walnut flavours. Kings Rd Brighton 01273 779954. (March 2002)

Zizzi's - There are lots of good things about Zizzi's - friendly and competent staff, wood-fired pizza oven, flash modern decor. The pizza was the best we have had in the UK so far (although not quite crispy enough), and the pasta was really cooked perfectly, with a delicious sauce of sun dried tomatoes, grilled peppers, pesto and a dash of creme fraiche. In fact, everything was highly recommendable, except the salad: tasteless tomatoes, supermarket mozarella and (I still can't quite believe that I was served this) avocado riddled with Colletotrichum (i.e. the flesh was full of brown, rotten bits). Ugh, let's have some brains switched on in the kitchen please. People at the table next to us got the green salad, which was free of rotting fruit, but looked pretty bloody average. So go, but whatever you do, back away from the salad. 7 Prince Albert St, the Lanes. 01273 323273. (April 2003)

Quod - the first time we ate here, I left feeling that I would be happy to return. The food was fine, if not outstanding, and the service was decent. Having been a second time, I am feeling rather less charitable. There's nothing glaringly wrong with Quod, but it doesn't live up to the image it is trying to cultivate. The restaurant space is modern, attractive and welcoming, with exhibitions of paintings on the walls and sexy, gentle spot lighting at each table. But while the menu reads well, and some dishes are fine - the pizzas are crisp and not overly loaded with toppings, and the pasta carbonara is authentically eggy - other dishes are let down by sloppy work. The tortelli are stuffed with a good mixture of fresh spinach and cheese, but the red pepper sauce is watery and they were served (just) lukewarm. It's my own prejudice that suggests that frisee should be banned from plates worldwide, but even enthusiasts I think would rather not eat a plate of it when labelled as 'mixed leaf salad'. The service can also be thoughtless - staff roughly shoved glasses out of the way to lay silverware, reached across people rather than walking around the table, and wordlessly dumped the bill on the table before we had finished our wine, on a quiet night when there were still a dozen tables free. Unimpressed. 160 North St, Brighton, BN11EZ. 01273 202070. (November 2003)

Al Forno - The ricotta and spinach cannelloni here isn't bad, with lots of fresh spinach in evidence, although the final grilling of the dish is probably a bit too enthusiastic when it leaves black char spots on the cheese. It's a shame, though, that the "ricotta and spinach" tortellini is actually filled with an unpleasant-tasting, stiff, grass-green, extruded paste. Isn't this false advertising?? The coffee's pretty good. East St Brighton. (December 2001)

La Piazza - I should say first up that we were here on a very busy Friday night, with a bunch of drunk young women screaming and screaming and SCREAMING every two minutes two tables away, so I can't talk about how calm and peaceful and sophisticated this restaurant is, as this review does. I can, however, tell you that fridge-cold, so-unripe-they're-almost-white tomatoes plus soggy bread does not make bruschetta; spinach panzerotti should have some, any, flavour; and that sweetcorn has no place on a pizza. Yes, I knew this before I went to La Piazza, but I suppose there is some value in having it confirmed. Oh why try and kid myself, all I got for my 25 was an earache and a sense of culinary dissatisfaction. 70 Church Rd Hove. 01273 771739. (February 2003)

Sole Mio - They were very generous and squeezed us in on a busy Friday night when we were dying for some Italian, which of course predisposed us to like it here, but the food is certainly not bad, and in some cases is really good. The mushrooms with garlic, parsley and white wine sauce are very tasty indeed. Tagliatelle with asparagus, mushroom and tomato is not terribly exciting, but that's what you get for ordering asparagus out of season. Best by far are the panzerotti, pancakes filled with fresh spinach and ricotta, and baked in a tomato and cheese sauce, lovely. Entrees are 1.60 - 6.45, pastas are 5.50 - 6.95, meaty things if you're interested about 10-15. There is no service charge for parties of under six people. 64 Western Rd Hove 01273 729898. (December 2001)

Donatello. Not thrilling, but perfectly competent, sometimes quite good, and huge portions. 1 Brighton Place, the Lanes. 01273 775 477. (Feb 2002)

La Cucina - Best home-delivered pizza in Brighton by far! Crispy base and good toppings (caramelised red onions, aubergines, goats cheese, etc - although they also do a ham and pineapple). Vegetarian pizzas are 5-6 for an 11 inch, 8-9 for a 15 inch. Choices include margherita, quattro formaggi, vegetarian (artichoke hearts, olives, garlic, mozzarella, baby sun-ripened tomatoes), low-fat vegetarian (wholemeal dough, courgettes, red onion, mushrooms and low-fat mozzarella) and a vegetarian calzone. They also do lasagne, salads, side dishes, etc. Most amusing thing on the menu: Stella Artois, only available in cases of 48 x 33cl bottles. Highly recommended. 4a Montpellier Place, Brighton, BN1 3BF. 01273 202206. Delivery hours Mon-Fri 4pm to midnight, Sat-Sun noon to midnight.

Pizza Fritta in Churchill Square - you can get slices of pizza for 1.20 - 1.40. The crust is bready and floured and generally good. There are normally four kinds available, two of which have vegetarian toppings: a margherita and one other. Occasionally they go off the rails and put tinned sweetcorn on it (why, why?) but usually not, thank god. There are also grilled rolls of Italian bread containing mozzarella and aubergine, which sounds good in theory, and looks delicious, but they contain just more fried aubergine than even I can eat in one sitting. Share between two or three people and it'd be great though. On the topic of the battered and deep fried pizza pieces from which this stand gets its name, I am going to remain silent. (December 2001)

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