The quasi-Italian job

Pizza and pasta on a cold night. Just the job? Read on. 

Half-term is a busy time to visit a family-friendly chain restaurant in the UK, so when we arrived at Prezzo to find a buzzing restaurant with most tables filled, we shouldn’t have been surprised. After a brief wait we were seated, and enquiries about allergies brought forward a detailed addition to the menu, which was a reassuring note on which to start the evening.  

The Shirley branch in Solihull where we dined is light and airy, and the bustle of the restaurant made it feel perhaps more full than it was, considering there was further seating upstairs. We had a great view of the pizza oven, providing some theatre between courses.  

To start, the Italian hummus (a cannellini bean dip) was smooth and garlicky, with crisp flatbreads to dip. A purist might argue that a little colour on the plate (some chilli oil maybe?) could have addressed the sheer whiteness of the plate, but the taste was certainly good. The starter meatballs were soft, yielding and well covered in a flavourful tomato sauce, and are also available for a main if you would like them with pasta.  

There was a rather long wait before our main courses arrived, with a salad appearing alone a good five minutes before the main plates, and then was duplicated as the main plates arrived. An enquiry brought forward a comment that the contents of the house dressing were unknown as far as allergens were concerned, so oil and balsamic were provided instead.  

The spaghetti with king prawns – or in our case gluten-free fusilli – was full of feistiness. The prawns themselves were juicy, but the whole dish left us slightly underwhelmed;  possibly as the chef had been over-generous with the pasta, which could have fed two hungry people. The large – very large – flatbread pizza was beautifully crispy at the edges and had some quality ingredients.  But again, it was filling rather than exciting, and we’re really not too hard to please.  

The service during the evening was friendly but confused. We were told that a query needed to be checked with the manager, then a second member of staff (who turned out to be the manager) arrived to take our order. There was a very long wait between courses, then a stray salad, then a duplicate. Our dessert order was requested twice.  

Maybe it was an over-busy and short-staffed night.  Even the best-ordered kitchen can suffer breakdowns in communication. The bill came to just over £52 plus drinks for two, comfort food on a chilly night when winter was beginning to make itself felt.