Tucked away in the far reaches of east Derbyshire, the quaint restaurant represents all things Italy.
From Sandro – the owner – and his blend of saucy specials, to the signed Juventus shirt hanging behind the counter and the green, white and red coloured napkins flamboyantly sticking out of the wine glasses at every table.
This is an Italian restaurant if ever I’ve seen one.
Browsing the menu, I was surprised to see such a varied amount of dishes. Soup, steak and chicken were all an option alongside the traditional classics and some in-house specialities too.
Opting for the Crespelle Al Formaggio (£4.50) for starters, a dish which promised a pancake filled with cheese topped with white wine sauce – with a dash of Italian exuberance thrown in for good measure.
It came within good time – not that it shouldn’t considering I was the only one in the restaurant on a Thursday evening.
With the melted cheese still sizzling around the pancake, I opted to take a few minutes before digging in. Once the cheese had cooled, I was pleased the pancake was still warm too. It was an interesting combination but one I would highly recommend and set me up for what was to follow – the calzone.
A folded pizza stuffed with mushrooms, pepperoni, ham, cheeses and topped with Sandro’s own bolognese sauce (£8.95).
The dish was tasty but I felt there was too much sauce – to the point it was slightly overpowering. The restaurant offered traditional decorations and soothing music. I sat alone but felt another set of eyes had joined me at the table – those of the waiting staff.
Having worked in a restaurant before, I can fully understand the temptation to keep tabs on diners’ progress.
Everyone wants efficient and speedy service, but standing still and looking out across the restaurant isn’t in the job description. It can make the diner feel uneasy.
Aside from this, the service – when face-to-face – was polite and able, even offering to sprinkle parmesan over my main dish, which was altogether a nice treat and an unexpected authentic taste of Italy in Clowne.
One more thing, if you do fancy a beer or glass of wine with your meal, the restaurant doesn’t hold a licence to sell alcohol on the premises. Instead, two halves a coke came to £2.40 meaning the whole experience came to £15.85 – not bad, but not great either.
By Matt Brooks
Star rating HHH