Norwich: Caffè Uno

EMMA LEE Its menu boasts that it's “inspired by the splendour of the rolling Tuscan hills and the buzz of Italian trattorias” and invites diners to “sit back, relax… and imagine yourself in the rustic comfort of our Italian farmhouse”.

EMMA LEE

Its menu boasts that it's “inspired by the splendour of the rolling Tuscan hills and the buzz of Italian trattorias” and invites diners to “sit back, relax… and imagine yourself in the rustic comfort of our Italian farmhouse”. Dining al fresco at Caffè Uno in Norwich's Tombland with buses roaring past every couple of minutes, you'd have to have a very vivid imagination indeed to manage that.

But it's still a very pleasant spot to enjoy a lazy lunch at.

On the last occasion my friend and I visited - being creatures of habit we've sort of adopted it as the regular venue for our 'ladies that lunch' catch-ups - there was a bit too much of an autumnal nip in the air to sit outside.

But when the sun's shining you have to get there early to get a table.

Actually to give them their due, inside it does have a bit of a cosy feel to it - the walls are pastel coloured and there's a few rustic pieces of kitchenalia dotted about. And the tables are quite close together which makes it feel quite intimate.

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We barely had any time to wait at all before we were given a cheery welcome and shown to a table tucked away in a corner - with big leather 'tub' style chairs which seemed to be a subliminal message to us to relax and take our time to savour the menu and gossip at length about one of our favourite topics - the X Factor.

We ordered drinks straight away - a white wine and soda for my friend and a sparkling mineral water for me and they arrived swiftly.

Caffè Uno does a special lunch menu with a selection of dishes for £5.95 from noon until 5pm Monday to Friday. The choices include spaghetti alla carbonara (spaghetti in a cream sauce with smoked pancetta bacon), risotto verde (risotto with asparagus, leeks, mange tout, peas, courgettes, pesto and rocket), mushroom pizza or a selection of wraps and ciabattas.

We skipped the starters - but could have chosen from bruschetta al pollo (toasted bread topped with roast chicken with pesto, sour cream and mascarpone cheese), gamberoni piccanti (tiger prawns in a spicy tomato chilli marinade) or crostini con formagi di capra (grilled goat's cheese on toasted bread with roasted peppers and cherry tomatoes).

Starters are priced from £3.75 to £10.95 for antipasto misto for two - a platter of Italian cured meats, cheese, smoked salmon and pizza bread.

Even though the lunch menu was a good deal, we went for dishes from the main menu - in fact out of all that choice we ended up going for the same one.

The main dishes are divided into four categories. Carne e pesce (meat and fish) included mussels, salmon fillet, three chicken dishes, tuna, burger and streaks with prices from £8.95-£13.95.

There's a selection of pizzas ranging from £5.95 for a simple margherita to £9.50 for tiger prawns, garlic butter, red onion, mozzarella and rocket. And there's three different risottos, including seafood and lasagne and cannelloni in the 'al forno' section.

We chose from the pasta selection.

The sound of fusilli con salmone e asparagi (pasta in a creamy white wine sauce with smoked salmon, asparagus, leeks, garlic, dill and lemon) was just too tempting for us to resist - although I almost went for the spinach and ricotta cannelloni.

I was glad that I went for the salmon - the flavours worked well together and none of them were overpowering. The lemon added a lovely zing, it was piping hot and the generous portion size justified the price - £8.95.

We somehow managed to find room for dessert. Caffè Uno stocks Bertorelli ice cream and sorbets, which have been made to a traditional Italian recipe in London since 1913, and it was impossible to resist.

I went for a scoop each of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and my friend went for two scoops of sorbet (£2.95 each).

I like the sound of the waffle all'acero (£4.15) - a warm waffle with maple syrup, crunchy nut toffee topping and vanilla ice cream, and may have to return to sample it. I would also like to try out their version of the tiramisu (£3.95) - sponge soaked with liqueur and marsala wine, with mascarpone cream.

They obviously didn't want us to leave - and I would have happily stayed all afternoon if I could - because it took a while to attract the waitress's attention to get the bill. But apart from that the service was faultless - efficient without being rushed.

Hopefully it'll be the venue for many more relaxed lunches.

t Caffè Uno, Tombland, Norwich; 01603 615718; www.Caffèuno.co.uk

t Can I park? There's no parking at the restaurant, but it's not too much of a hike from any of the city centre car parks.

t Anything for veggies? The choice isn't too bad - there's a couple of meat-free pasta dishes and pizzas on the menu.

t Do I need to book? This is a popular spot, so it's probably best to phone ahead at weekends.

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