WITH a plethora of Italian restaurants in Durham, city centre venue Capriccio had rather passed me by until recently.

It has a cafe on the ground floor, on the corner between Elvet Bridge and Saddler Street, which I had ventured into for a quick lunch but the restaurant – spread over the two floors above, was a different story.

After finding our cupboards bare, my fiancé and I decided to go for a mid-week bite to eat in town. After discovering our first choice wasn’t serving food that evening, we decided to give it a go.

Loading article content

Thankfully the neon light in the first-floor window of Capriccio told us we would have better luck here so we made our way up to see if we could find a table.

Once inside, it would be hard to mistake what type of cuisine was on offer.

The decor is distinctly Italian – or at least the walls are covered in icons of Italian culture. Ferrari memorabilia, posters of the Godfather and photos of Al Pacino - they all take pride of place, along with a few patriotic Italian flags.

We took our seats in the window, overlooking Saddler Street, with a view of rivals Pizza Express and La Spagettata.

Once settled with a glass of perfectly acceptable house red (£4.95 for a large glass), we had the chance to look at the extensive menu.

Starters range between £3,25 for soup and £14.95, while pizza and pasta main courses start at around £6-£7, with a good choice of more expensive meat and fish dishes and other specials.

With several pages, plus a good selection of specials, it took us some time to narrow down our selections.

Eventually I chose the Bocconcini Mozzarella (mozzarella wrapped in Parma ham, and baked in the oven - £5.95) as a starter.

Meanwhile Carlo had the Focaccia Mozzarella and Tomato (£5.25).

Served with tomato, salad and balsamic, my mozzarella was lovely, though I have to say the trimming seemed to have a strong resemblance to bacon rather than the cured ham. Still delicious, if not quite what I was expecting. I would have liked it a little warmer all the way through but there was nothing that stopped me from clearing the plate.

The focaccia was more like what would usually be described as garlic bread in this country – though similar to the focaccia I’ve been served in Florence - a thin bread base, topped with garlic, tomato and cheese.

Whatever the authenticity, it was great, the bread soft and topping flavoursome. In short what Italian cuisine does so well; so simple, that when it’s done properly it’s almost impossible to imagine it being bad.

For our main course we both ordered pasta dishes off the special board. My choice was ravioli with crab and lobster, served up with a little parmesan (£15.95)

Crab and lobster are two of my favourite things so I was slightly nervous about ordering it as I’ve had slightly dodgy versions of the dish in other restaurants. However I was happy with what was served up. Lobster is never quite the same as when you’re picking it from the shell, ideally with a view of the sea it came from, but the flavour was good and the sauce creamy but not too heavy.

Carlo’s pasta was possibly even better though. His was ravioli with Italian sausage and Porcini mushrooms (£15.95) and it was fab. The herby sausage was gorgeous and the mushrooms gave it a lovely woody depth.

Carlo initially wanted to skip dessert, but after seeing the menu decided against it. My choice was a Nutella tiramisu (£4.25) while he had an “indulgent” chocolate pot (£4.95).

The tiramisu was a new special so both the waitress and chef were keen for my feedback. It got a double thumbs up from me. It was very creamy, possibly slightly on the runny side, and full of nutty, chocolate flavour.

The chocolate pot was some fudge-y ice-cream which Carlo polished off fairly quickly.

The final bill was £57.50, which seemed not unreasonable. Service was laid back and friendly.

Capriccio

TYPE: Italian

Where: 32a Saddler Street, Durham, DH1 3NU

Contact: 0191 370 9550

Open: Monday – Wednesday 5.30pm-10pm. Thursday- Saturday 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm – 10.30pm. Sunday 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-10pm

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Service: 3/5

Value: 3/5