THERE cannot be many more appropriate sites for an Italian restaurant than a former college.

After all, we have learned so much on these shores down the years from our Mediterranean friends on the subject of fine cuisine.

Our trip to La Vecchia Scuola – literally translated as The Old School – was not quite the education we hoped for though.

It was decent, but more of a B- solid pass, than an A* dining experience.

Entering the one-time York College for Girls’ pillared entrance, it was quickly clear that the owners are keen to embrace the building’s past.

I’m a big enthusiast for eateries with an interesting history and enjoyed reading about La Vecchia’s past life on the first page of our menu.

Photographs of college life from a long bygone era are also a nice touch while, back in 2017, the venue provides an ideal setting for a restaurant.

We were shown to our marble table in the conservatory area, where there was a great view of the Minster.

Arriving during daylight hours, the atmosphere was light, airy and spacious but, as we left at nightfall, the chandeliers provided a more intimate environment.

Having booked a table at 3pm, we were able to take advantage of the £14.95 three-course lunchtime set menu, which we felt represented very good value on a busy Sunday afternoon during Christmas market season.

In fact, the offer is available every day other than Saturday and, with orders taken until 4pm, can easily be treated as an early dinner.

Making our drinks choices, I resisted the temptation of a cocktail menu that had 22 different options, preferring a good Chilean Merlot to accompany my food.

Given a variety of six starters, I then plumped for Breaded Brie served with sweet chilli sauce and, whilst a fairly simple dish, I was happy with the two generous potions and the hot oozing cheese.

The sweet chilli sauce, which so often seems to follow a standard universal recipe, also had a pleasing kick.

My wife Nikki, meanwhile, opted for Garlic Mushrooms Bruschetta topped with grana padano.

The garlic strength was spot on – neither too overpowering nor undetectable – as was the choice of cheese.

A little more grana padano might have improved the dish, along with a thicker consistency to the sauce, but my other half was generally impressed and felt the course was the culinary highlight of her visit.

For our eight-year-old daughter, there was also a children’s menu, which allowed her to have a smaller version of any pizza or pasta main and a drink for £7.95.

She decided on a margarita pizza and, looking at least nine inch in diameter, it would have been acceptable for most adult appetites.

Accordingly, I tasted a slice and the base and crust were fresh and crisp with the mix of cheese and tomato perfectly proportioned.

Ruby had also ordered a J20 with her meal but, after leaving the restaurant, we realised we had been charged for her drink and, if there were only certain beverages available for free as part of the children’s menu deal, we were not told what they were.

Back on our set menu, there were a generous 14 alternative dishes to choose from for our mains.

I decided on Pork Belly glazed in apple cider and honey, served with crushed potatoes and pancetta sauce.

It was good, but not outstanding.

The meat was tasty enough, but the skin could have been a bit crunchier and the flavour of the fruit was not strong enough.

I enjoyed the potatoes, but the serving was a little too plentiful and a tad less spud, with perhaps the addition of a vegetable side, might have made for a better all-round plate.

The pancetta sauce was nice and rich though.

Nikki went for the Calzone Salsica folded pizza with mozzarella, Italian sausage and vegetable ragu and it came Gladiator-sized.

The dough was again well-cooked, but the filling was a little disappointing.

More sausage was needed to complement the over-sized chunks of vegetable and the meat could have been spicier.

Finally, dessert choices were limited to four on the set menu and portion sizes were less bountiful.

I ordered Home-made Tiramisu and, for such an Italian signature dish, was left a little underwhelmed.

It was pleasant again, but far from spectacular, with a more powerful coffee taste needed, along with a creamier texture.

Nikki chose La Vecchia’s Banoffee Pie and loved the pieces of fresh banana, but felt more toffee was needed.

Our final food bill – Ruby included - was £37.85 and, overall, without being bowled over, we felt sufficiently indulged for our money in a nice setting for a Sunday afternoon.

La Vecchia Scuola, Low Petergate, York

01904 644600

Food: Safe 3/5

Service: A little remiss 3/5

Ambience: Relaxed 4/5

Value: Very good 4/5