Very few things in life are ever certain, with the exceptions of death, taxes and over half term, rain and shopping. So it was that on a dreary wet Wednesday of half term that I chauffeured Red (the wife) Fidget and Shy (sons) into Liverpool city centre ostensibly to purchase trainers for Fidget, who seems to go through said items faster than Operation Yewtree is going through celebrities, though I feel I should point out that much of our ‘training shoe’ shopping time was spent in various female clothing stores. Weird how that works isn’t it?
Zizzi is one of a rapidly growing chain of rustic Italian themed restaurants that have been popping up across England for the past 15 years.
Anyway, fully shopped-out, we arrived at the fairly deserted upper level of Liverpool One. The only other inhabitants out in the rain were four Liverpool One caretaking staff dredging various bits of detritus out of a blocked drain. Lovely! Fortunately we were able to seek refuge from the rains and drains in an equally deserted Zizzi, one of a rapidly growing chain of rustic Italian themed restaurants that have been popping up across England for the past 15 years.
The dining room is bang on message with the Italian rustic theme: spacious and bright with more than its fair share of wood and an eye-catching open kitchen with a pizza oven as the conflagrant centre piece. Service was very prompt from a more mature waitress (I realise I am straying into treacherous territory here but I have always found the more fully fledged to make better waiting-on staff) and continued in that excellent vein throughout. We were quickly seated in the window, presumably as bait for other passers-by and furnished with menus, and the boys with their own children’s menu, though they declined the crayons to colour them in.
We opted for shared starters of the obligatory garlic bread and a chicchetti platter. The former was a very serviceable oven baked flatbread with sufficient garlic to keep us all happy. The latter was a sharing plate of Arancini risotto balls, chicken and pepper skewers, oven baked king prawn skewers, mini calzone with spicy n’duja sausage and a tomato and bufala (sic) mozzarella salad with a chunky peperonata dip. The risotto balls were moist and flavoursome with the added joy of a melted cheese centre. The chicken and pepper skewers were a favourite with all 4 of us, Fidget particularly liking the peppers. The king prawn skewers were equally well recieved, though I felt a touch overcooked. The mini calzone avoided the classic pit-fall of being overcooked and provided a moderately interesting mouthful, made much more intriguing when the spicy sausage was found! And finally the mozzarella salad, well it was a mozzarella salad: mozzarella, basil and mini tomatoes.
Service between courses was slightly slow, around 15 to 20 mins each time, but I am assured by various restaurateurs that this is a good thing! I just know that in this time Red could have popped into Next and Top Shop, bought those shoes and that top, delivered the phrases “Well I haven’t got anything to wear!” and “All those clothes and shoes in my wardrobe have been there for years” and been back at the table without missing a course.
The message here is clear ladies, never fall in love with an Italian you have met on the internet!
For our mains the two boys stayed on the children’s menu with a very well cooked spaghetti bolognese (even better than dad’s he said), and a standard margherita pizza, which we were able to adorn with additional chicken for a £1 surcharge. Before arriving Red had researched the menu and set her heart on a Zizzi Spiedini, no this is not an oiled-up hunk or the Italian Eurovision entry but a house special, in this case the spiedini pollo: roast chicken breast with red onions, courgettes and peppers on a hanging skewer served above Tuscan potatoes with a white wine and lemon sauce. As is often the case with internet dating, however, the reality did not match the pictures Red had been devouring on the internet the night before. Six small, tepid pieces of chicken hung over a small bowl of potatoes, purportedly Tuscan, though passports were not checked, with a congealed sauce watching on from the side. The message here is clear ladies, never fall in love with an Italian you have met on the internet!
My main had also been pre-selected: the calzone carne piccante consisting of spicy piccante chicken, mini beef meatballs, mushroom, chilli, tomatoes and bolognese. Despite the inedible inch of dough at either end, this on the whole was an enjoyable pizza: plenty of flavour in the chicken and sauce, though not as hot as I had hoped and the mini meatballs tasted somewhat manufactured. Nevertheless a drizzle of the gasoline packaged chilli oil lifted the dish to the level of heat I was looking for.
It was sharp and tangy but the marscarpone, like a parish priest on the Palm Sugar dance floor, appeared somewhat out of place.
The best, however, was saved till last. the boys ploughed on with the children’s menu selecting lemon sorbet, sharp and fresh and a good mint choc chip gelato. As for Red and me we were swayed by our ever-helpful and enthusiastic waitress who helpfully informed us that the two most popular desserts were the new lemon meringue sundae and the chocolate and toffee nut sundae. Red went fresh and citrus with the former whilst I dabbled with the dark arts of the latter. Red, still suffering from a broken heart from the main course, was only partly impressed with the lemon sorbet, crema gelato, crumbled meringue, whipped mascarpone cream, lemon curd and mint dessert. It was sharp and tangy but the marscarpone, like a parish priest on the Palm Sugar dance floor, appeared somewhat out of place.
Then just as the dessert could not get any better there is a knock on the door of your mouth and the caramalised peanuts turn up to get the party started
The crowning glory, however, of the whole meal was my dessert: chocolate and crema gelato, banana, whipped mascarpone cream, toffee sauce and caramelised peanuts. Yes the mascarpone was once again misplaced but that paled into insignificance in the sweet embrace of the toffee sauce and delightfully light gelato. Then just as the dessert could not get any better there is a knock on the door of your mouth and the caramalised peanuts turn up to get the party started. As Alan Partridge would say “Jurrassic Park!” This dessert is worth visiting Zizzi’s for just on its own.
In the post-coital comfort of the dessert we paid the bill £80 for the four of us and prepared to leave. Rising from the table like a broken woman, with a teared stained tissue in her hand Red still looked heartbroken after her dalliance with Zizzi Spiedini. As ever the loving husband I asked what could possibly make her feel better. Then with a glint in her eye she perked up and suggested “maybe some more retail therapy?” My poor credit card.
Type: family / budget restaurant
- Service: 9.5/10 A victory for the more mature waiting on staff!
- Atmosphere: 7/10 attractive open dining room, plenty of wood.
- Food: 7/10 in true spaghetti western fashion: the good, the bad and the ugly
- Value for money: 7.5/10 children’s meals great, mains a bit pricier
- Overall: 7.5 Worth a visit
These are judged against the best of that type of restaurant. For example cafes against what you would expect from the best cafes, high end restaurants against the best high end restaurants etc.
Website: Zizzi Liverpool One