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Cheap & not so cheerful.

Newcastle is jam packed with Italian restaurants, and most of them are pretty uninspring. The sheer volume does mean that you have a full range of choice though, with your pricey-but-quality Caffè Vivos at the top, through your great-business-lunch Marco Polos, and, making up the majority – the imaginatively named 395 Pizzerias and crap like that.

Marketing themselves way above the Godfathers and Francescas of the world, Fratello’s Jesmond (NE2 1PR) is the newest in the family of three restaurants dotted around the region calling itself “authentic Italian with a modern twist”. Saying that, we used a tastecard for 50% off food, and it’d be surprising if anyone actually paid list price for anything on the menu – Fratello’s accepts vouchers galore.

fratello's jesmond pizza (flickr)
We had some cheap and cheerful cocktails while browsing the quite tempting menu at the adjacent Zio Bar before heading in. Our service was very friendly and accommodating, and the feel of the place is pleasant enough and quite relaxing compared to some hustle-bustle Italians – or is that the point?

To start we have brushcetta – topped with artichokes, anchovy (at request) and pepper (pictured, £6.50!), and polpettoni piccanti (£6.50). The serving plates are quite pretty, but both are hiding soft white under-done ciabatta. Damn. Bottle of Malbec goes down much better than the first course.

Seeing as one of the main reasons we have been keen to come here is seeing the fire oven burning through the window on the coast road, there is so much hope for pizza piccante (£8.25, above). Which makes it all the more disappointing. The base is very much the highlight with a canny good texture, but it’s downhill from there with just a lack of any discernible flavour. Crap pepperoni, bland tomato sauce. Bit sad really – how do you fit so little flavour into something so tasty looking?

fratello's jesmond (flickr)

Polpettoni piccanti (£8.95, pictured below) doesn’t really fare much better. The pasta is cooked well enough, but again, the sauce is just unexciting, and worse, the meatballs can only be described as “hard”. Goddamnit. It probably says enough that what we really enjoyed most is a parmesan & rocket salad (£2.95). It’s not bad food per se, just doesn’t taste of very much.

Went next door for a few more cocktails afterwards which are alright for half-price, but stray from the tried & tested classics and you will get something with a lot of syrup. Alright place to have some pre-Jesmond drinks though, and a live band was on Friday night.

Fratello’s also have restaurants at Ponteland and Richmond. Are these any better? Let us know below in the comments as we probably won’t be in a rush to go back.

fratello's jesmond (flickr)

Two starters, two mains & a side, bottle of wine £54 (got 50% off food w/ Tastecard so ~£30)

Food hygiene rating: not yet rated.

Contact: fratellosjesmond.co.uk

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