Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, frequently appearing on top ten lists over the years. It also happens to be one of my favourite types of food, which is why this Derby foodie couldn’t wait to check out Zizzi on Friargate, Derby.
We had a booking for Saturday lunch-time and were promptly shown to our table with a nice window view. The Italian inspired artwork of swirly black against cream is a pleasure to behold and the scattered cushions on the wooden pews were inspired (you very rarely see cushions in restaurants).
We kicked off with an ice-cold Peroni (the frosted glasses were a nice touch) and soon started on Bruschetta (confit baby plum tomatoes on garlic brushed ciabatta) and Calamari (crispy squid rings with a garlic and basil aioli dip).
Both were perfectly nice, although the bread to tomato ratio for the Bruschetta was a little one-sided (still, too much tomato never killed anyone, right?).
I had the Spaghetti Pomodoro (pasta with buffalo mozzarella, baby plum tomatoes and basil) whilst my partner had the Rustica Piccante (pepperoni, spicy Nduja sausage, salami, roquito chillies, mushrooms, mozzarella, rocket and mascarpone on a crispy base).
Again, the pasta dish was average, nothing standout about it. It could have been a dish I had made at home (and I’m no exceptional chef). My partner’s pizza again was nice, although the chef had seemed to be a little heavy-handed with the roquito chillies. This chilli paste was spread liberally on the pizza base and additional teaspoon-sized mini mounds on the pizza too. The taste was a little overpowering and I couldn’t help but think that the pizza would have tasted better with just a few daubs of this paste.
For dessert I had the Chocolate Melt (hot, gooey chocolate pudding served with crema gelato) whilst my partner had the Chocolate, Praline and Sea Salt Torte (served with honey, sea salt and mascarpone gelato and a caramel-hazelnut snap).
This is where Zizzi redeemed itself. Both desserts were lush. My self-saucing pudding was moist and decadent without being cloying, whilst the torte was the standout dish of the whole menu.
The sweet honey and sea salt pairing was inspired and coupled with the delectably short, crisp pastry base and velvety smooth torte, makes this one of the best desserts I have ever tasted.
Overall, the meal was average. The two standout features were the excellent customer service (they run a tight ship over there) and that scrummy, yummy dessert. Would I go there again? Maybe. It was such a lovely place to dine. And I would definitely go back for a slice of that heavenly torte.
Diners will vote with their feet and whilst its heart might be in the right place, Zizzi has a while to go before winning any foodie awards. It may not be the best Italian I’ve ever eaten at, but this is a restaurant to keep an eye on in future as it has great potential.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 8
Rate or Slate? Rate (just about)
Address: Zizzi Restaurant, 16-17 Friar Gate, Derby DE1 1BX Tel: 01332 208297
*This review first appeared in The Derbyshire Guardian*