Beccles: Prezzo

The menu delivers all you could ask for in terms of pizza and pasta, plus a few meat dishes almost entirely based around chicken. Red meat lovers will have to stick to a burger. Prezzo is quite keen on its baked dishes, too, from mushroom-stuffed crêpes and cannelloni to excellent gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola.

Actually, we went to see the toilets. Ever since the place opened a few weeks ago, they have been the talk of Beccles. The reason is that between one of the cubicles upstairs and the restaurant downstairs there is a very pretty window made of pieces of coloured glass. And, according to rumour, this is not quite as opaque as one might wish.

Disappointingly, when I have visited the cubicle in question has always been “out of order” - probably for this very reason.

But having visited to investigate the toilets, the experience was so enjoyable that I have since been back twice. The food is good, the atmosphere relaxed, and portions generous.

Other people seem to think so, too. Even in January, a slow time for restaurants, Saturdays have been fully booked and even midweek trade is brisk. Our fellow diners, mostly in small groups, seemed young and trendy - not the people you usually see around Beccles. They appeared to have come from nowhere to visit Prezzo.


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While we were waiting for our food, a colleague recounted how her previous visit to an Italian restaurant had gone rather badly when the waiter found out she was a journalist. He picked her up, carried her into the kitchen, and pretended to put her head first into the oven. While many people will no doubt approve of these sentiments, we were quite relieved that our visit to Prezzo passed off without any unpleasant incidents.

The building started life as a cinema, although more recently it has been a furniture store. The restaurant makes the most of the handsome building, with its high arched ceiling. Red panels, dark wood and leather give a bit of warmth and intimacy to the large open space.

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The menu delivers all you could ask for in terms of pizza and pasta, plus a few meat dishes almost entirely based around chicken. Red meat lovers will have to stick to a burger. Prezzo is quite keen on its baked dishes, too, from mushroom-stuffed crêpes and cannelloni to excellent gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola.

There are worse ways to start a meal than with goats' cheese tart, baked mushrooms or calamari that still look like the baby octopi that they are. When it came to mains, my pizza Pazzerella was topped with a measly four olives, but did redeem itself by being liberally sprinkled with rocket and parmesan. Like the pizza Bianca I tried previously, it was was unusual as well as tasty.

Spaghetti with prawns and baked pasta with chicken, chorizo and tomato sauce also won good reviews. The culinarily least adventurous of our number bravely opted for a chicken and chorizo pizza, but was overwhelmed by its chilli levels. Then again, we are talking about someone who refuses to eat curry and even turned down bread and butter pudding because it has sultanas in it.

On the subject of pudding, I am not sure that desserts are as good as the rest of the food. Apple crumble is enormous but stodgy, although the honeycomb cheesecake seems to have many fans.

Service is laid back, with the staff apparently happy for you to spend the entire evening at your table. On my second visit, this extended to an unexplained delay of half an hour between starter and main course, so probably not somewhere to go to in a hurry.

Occasionally the Italian menu seems less than authentic. Pizza “Tropicana” may be an American favourite, but I'm certain that a self-respecting Italian would sooner eat a baked bean pizza that one with pineapple and ham. The grasp of the Italian language isn't quite there, either. The pizza Bianca (which means white pizza, without any tomato) actually comes with semi-dried tomato, as well as tomato sauce.

Of course, none of this seemed to bother the many apparently satisfied customers.

And if we are looking for criticism, well, chain restaurants have never been my favourite places to go. But Prezzo is obviously doing something that is needed in Beccles, as a lot of people will testify. All except a certain mature lady of the town, who absolutely will not go in there because of the toilets.

t Prezzo, 9 Saltgate, Beccles; 01502 715036; www.prezzoplc.co.uk

t Do I need to book? A good idea, especially at weekends. You can also visit their website to see the menu.

t Parking? No dedicated parking, try on-street or one of the nearby car parks.

t Disabled access? The toilets are upstairs.

t There are already branches in Norwich and King's Lynn, as well as various others across the country.

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