On the way to a night of police comedy, PETER BARRON puts a County Durham Italian restaurant on trial

WE were feeling peckish as we headed to the theatre to see a show starring a copper-turned-comedian, so The Italian Job seemed a reasonable option.

Alfie Moore spent more than 20 years serving with Humberside Police before turning to stand-up comedy, based on real-life tales from his days as a crime-fighter.

My wife, Heather, and I had become fans while listening to his podcasts – It’s A Fair Cop – on BBC Radio 4, so we bought tickets for his sell-out show – Fair Cop Unleashed – at The Witham, a gem of a community arts venue in Barnard Castle.

 We wanted somewhere nearby to eat out beforehand, and Capri Italian looked good value from the menu on its website. Situated in Newgate, the restaurant is a short walk from The Witham, round the corner from the Market Cross, on the way to Bowes Museum.

What made it particularly attractive for us Saturday night theatre-goers was that it opened nice and early at 5pm. There are no reserved seats at The Witham – it’s a case of grab what you can when the doors open – so we wanted plenty of time to enjoy our meal without the anxiety of ending up at the back of the queue.

We clearly weren’t the only ones with the same idea because Capri was busy within an hour, both with sit-in diners and those collecting takeaways.

At first view, it’s no bobby dazzler, with a characterless exterior that wouldn’t look out of place as a DIY store. Inside, it’s spacious and functional, with the obligatory large picture of the island of Capri covering the end wall in an attempt to make up for the lack of traditional charm.

The ambience is also enhanced by the open-fronted kitchen, where guests can see meals being freshly made with locally sourced produce and ingredients.

That said, once we were shown to our seats, the service from a young waitress was exemplary: quick, friendly, smiling, and attentive without being intrusive.

Not wanting to leave ourselves short of time, we started with bread and olives to share. The mixed olives were plump and tasty, with impressive home-made focaccia to dip in the olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar. Having charged our glasses with the decent house red, it was an encouraging start.

We both fancied pizzas, with Heather opting for the Pizza Feta (cheese, garlic, fresh spinach, olives, and feta) while I ordered the Tuna. That’s all it’s called – no attempt at a more alluring name – with the main, fishy topping accompanied by mozzarella, red onions and capers.

Capri’s pizzas are rectangular whoppers and very well-priced at £10.95. However, we both felt the flavours in our choices weren’t all that memorable.

Heather could only manage half of her Pizza Feta, so I did the honourable thing and finished the rest for her.

Neither of us had much room for a dessert but, given we were on the way to see an ex-policeman, we couldn’t resist finishing off with a Panna Cotta Coppa. Topped with fresh blueberries, it was perfectly OK again without being particularly arresting.

To be fair, we weren’t looking for a fine dining experience. Our aim was simply to find somewhere on the local beat that was open, quick, wholesome and good value, and that’s what we got at Capri.

We were finished in good time to claim decent seats for the show, and the old bill – including three glasses of wine – came to a very reasonable £51.60.


Capri Italian Restaurant, 25 Newgate, Barnard Castle, DL12 8NJ

Tel: 01833 637926

Web: www.capriitalian55.co.uk

Open: Monday – closed; Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday – 5pm-9pm; Friday & Saturday – 12-2.30pm/5pm-10pm; Sunday – 12-2.30pm/5pm-9pm.


Food quality: 3/5

Service: 5/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Value: 4/5