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Pizzeria Italia

Jonathan Schofield makes a bad investment for lunch at a geriatric Manchester restaurant

Written by . Published on December 11th 2007.

Pizzeria Italia

There was a Confidential breakout last Thursday. Five of us left the office to take a look at the new Tampopo under the Triangle. Unfortunately the gas supply had failed and the cookers wouldn’t fire so Tampopo was a no-no.

The British have a romantic idea of the Latin career waiter. Occasionally such people exist, there are several classic examples in Manchester, but having lived in the Mediterranean, I know the notion is generally false.

In a moment of inspiration a visit to Manchester’s oldest continuously operating Italian restaurant was proposed. This is the type of inspiration which encourages people to buy music by Mika or put £10k on Ricky winning last weekend.

The idea was simple enough. Visit Pizzeria Italia on Deansgate, bag some reasonably priced lasagnes and carbonaras, and prove that these dinosaurs of food fashion still make sense in 2007.

It started off well in a sort of pleasant negative sense. The restaurant opened in 1973 and probably hasn’t been refurbished since. There are jolly brick arches, cheesy prints of old Italy, red and white table cloths and a white paint job gone brownish. Perfect, just the right air of decay.

But the service and the food were all wrong, real wrong. I’ve never eaten in a place which seemed to care so little about the customer.

The British have a romantic idea of the Latin career waiter. Occasionally such people exist, there are several classic examples in Manchester, but having lived in the Mediterranean, I know the notion is generally false. The truth is very few people, even Latins, find restaurant service a vocation, the skills of which they’d like to polish for decades. It’s different if they become the manager or the proprietor, but generally they get as bored of doing the same job, over and over again, as the next person.

Here the Italian waiter seemed in a big rush, he slapped things down on the table, chuntered away to himself and seemed to wish he could join the cast of the Golden Compass in a parallel universe.

The food definitely came from a parallel universe. The Antipasto All’Italia (£8) was so bad and so couldn’t-give-a-shit it was funny. There were tinned beans, tinned mushrooms and low grade salami. It also had some cheap processed ham which one of our number joshed would look great with a bear’s face in it. Billy Bear Ham has never been a classic antipasto dish as far as I’m aware.

The mains were just dreary. A carbonara dish (£7) was a mad mix of flavours and was creamed to death, the penne saporite (£7.20), with macaroni, beans, spicy sausage, chilli and tomato sauce was acceptable but dull. I ate it because I was hungry.

The pizzas were better, maybe the restaurant should just stick with these as they are an essential part of the name. The Paesana (£7.50), all veggie with courgettes, aubergines, oregano, cheese and onion was simplicity itself with a decent base. The Pizza Italia, tagged ‘a bit of everything’, was poor, a shapeless mess of everything from the other pizza choices chucked on to one base.

20071112Pizza320071112Pizza3It’s hard not to like survivors, but some of them are just dogged, hanging in there for the lease to come up. The reasons behind Pizzeria Italia's apparent popularity – it was three-quarters full at lunchtime - seem obscure. Poor food, poor service, poor décor shouldn’t be a recipe for success. Without the location they would have struggled to survive almost 35 years.

There’s room for a jolly, bargain-priced Italian venue in every city, a place stuck in history like a Betamax copy of La Dolce Vita, but they need to do the basics of customer service and food well. I like the way Leonis near the Town Hall still offers something.

But let’s finish with a true story. I know of a Pizzeria Italia customer who after a long hard day fell asleep headfirst on the table. The waiters brought his spag bol and his wine and placed them on each side of his snoozing head. They didn’t wake him. Then they brought the bill. He woke just in time to pay and rush to his train. Sleeping through the meal is probably the best way to enjoy this place. Thank God I’m reviewing somewhere new on Thursday: Grado on York Street.

Rating: 8/20
Breakdown: 3/10 Food
2/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Pizzeria Italia
40 Deansgate City
M3 1RH
0871 2077035
Open: daily noon-11pm


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34 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

susan pressDecember 11th 2007.

Used to love Pizzeria Italia because it used to be good . I believe the original owners sold it some time ago......

ChrisdDecember 11th 2007.

I have to agree - there is no excuse for tinned mushrooms in an Italian restaurant that it not in the throws of wartime rations - it's like some dire place in Leicester Square that stays afloat just because it's there...

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

Villagio isn't really that bad. For a quick simple Italian it's one of the better ones - friendly service and decent enough food that I've been back a few times. I haven't had the wine, but surely the bottle is opened in front of you and placed on the table, proof that it's not watered down at all?

LianeDecember 11th 2007.

Completely agree with Philip - how hard the kitchen works is pretty irrelevant if the result is poor. And agree with Jonathan. If I was a restaurant owner (and I have worked in hospitality before, so know a bit about behind the scenes), I would rather find out from customers what's wrong - and have a chance to correct it - than wait until a food critic arrives and publishes something more widely-read. I went to San Carlo recently. The food was great, once we'd been seated, but the service left a LOT to be desired. There were about five rowdy "Happy Birthdays" sung by the waiters. Shame they didn't put as much effort into being welcoming to other customers.I booked a table for 9pm. I don't mind waiting, especially on a busy night, but there was nowhere to sit in the bar and it was swamped with people just drinking. I politely asked how long the table was likely to be; and was looked at as if I'd just kicked the waiter's mother. When I tried again, he said that if I approached the manager with the same question, I'd probably be asked to leave because the staff were working hard and didn't need the hassle. I really wasn't in the mood for a fight - but he clearly was. It was just bizarre.

stejaskiDecember 11th 2007.

If Pizzeria Roma is Aldi, then Villagio is Netto. I never trust a restuarant with wipe clean menus, which hasnt changed since it opened. I agee with Princess-Best cheap and cheerful Italian is Don Antonios on Portland Street!-does that mean I'm one of the "eating eilte"?

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

dont worry anonymous, the pizzeria will re-open shortly under new management, with a bit of a revamp and spring clean, hopefully you will all be returning.Jonathan, hopefully you will enjoy

HelenDecember 11th 2007.

I have always found the chain Bella Italia fantastic for delicious Italian food (they have Deansgate & Piccadilly branches)and the pizzas at Croma in the town centre are original and very tasty - all at a reasonable price!Helen, M7

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

Shirley Ridyard - I used to work at felicini and let me tell you that people like you are the reason that good people like me are turning our backs on the restaurant industry. Manchester's restaurant scene is so poor at the moment because people like you who don't know what you are talking about have such an easy platform to make the hard work that some professionals (not all) in this industry put in completely worthless. if only every industry had such an easy forum to access. let's face it englands 2nd city has no michelin star restaurants (bar juniper but thats hardly central) and its restaurant of the year is a chain. a sad state. yet every week this website is full of negative comments from people in their ivory towers who wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between back and front of house. microwave pizza's??? go to felicinis tomorrow and ask them to show you how they make 300 pizzas a day (not bad for somewhere that is quiet eh?) - from the italian dough and the fresh ingredients delivered every day to the method of cooking you will find that everything is freshly prepared the day you consume it.everywhere i go i get **** service - post office, bt, bank, asda, etc but nowhere do you find the torrent of abuse that good restaurant workers have to suffer from people who can only pull their noses from their stellas or shirazs long enough to get something knocked off the bill and then run home to their pc's and still say it wasn't good enough. now not only do we get pissed up people handing out abuse in our own workplaces but we can't even read a website that claims to promote manchester without hearing it also. saints

CitydwellerDecember 11th 2007.

Yep, tried Numero once and haven't been back. Food was mediocre at best and service was okay.Linen is fantastic, but Numero's letting the side down.

Woodsy ManchesterDecember 11th 2007.

numero! We have been given 20% vouchers on two occassions due to the shambolic service. we were on deserts while the table next to us, who had arrived earlier have just been given their starters. Linen rocks, Nuermo has some way to go. That said the food was excellent - when it arrived.

JanieDecember 11th 2007.

I can remember when this place was THE place to go because the food was always delightful and a real pleasure to savour. Looks like that is well and truly in the past given this last report. I find it really sad that somewhere that was once held in high esteem is now getting tagged as a place to avoid. Hopefully someone from Pizzeria Italia will see this review and start making some swift and much needed changes.

CountryboyDecember 11th 2007.

Just noticed you are reviewing Grado on Thursday. Grado in Spanish is 'degree', whereas Gordo in Spanish is 'fat person'. Just thought you'd like to know.

GPDecember 11th 2007.

Many years ago a 'friend' of ours recommended we ate there - big mistake, not suprised it is still really bad. Had a pizza at Don Giovanni's and was very nice on Mon night before going to see the Take That boys (was in Block A, you know... whoo hoo)

benDecember 11th 2007.

On a works "do" 20-odd of us were served -fairly slowly if I recall correctly - some luke-warm, mediocre, over-salty food at Pizzeria Italia. When we mentioned the saltiness to a waiter he simply laughed. The office used to go there en masse 2-3 times a year but this was the last time. Avoid.

AdeleDecember 11th 2007.

Bravo on this review. I am so fed up of second rate restaurants who think the British will eat anything and pay a high price for it, they're nearly always Italians too, I've been to Italy, they don't eat pizzas and spag bol all day! The city centre can do better and there is no excuse for such laziness and poor value. Sadly, there are still people out there who think places like this are 'exotic' but come on it's 2007 not 1987. Don't waste your money in places like this, Manchester has loads of great restaurants that deserve to stay in business.

lauraDecember 11th 2007.

Terrible restaurant- rude staff, rubbish food... etc etc... Walked out without finishing our starters about this time last year. Avoid at all costs.

PhilipDecember 11th 2007.

Anonymous, I think you are missing the point - Shirley Ridyard is a customer and deserves an opinion. I've eaten at Felicini twice both times the food was poor. I know how much hard work goes into running a restaurant and the intentions are of course good, but at the end of the day the food is poor and we've a right to say so.

Shirley RidyardDecember 11th 2007.

I can top that. The italian meal we had at Felicinis On Oxford Road December 1 was truly awful. I ordered whole place which came presumably chill cooked to mush consistency with every forkful a mouthful of bones. Served with this was a heap of slimy undrained black spinach. My companion ordered paella which I thought would be saffron coloured with al dente rice. The dish resembled catfood - or tinned rice pudding with bits, no texture at all - a white dish of food with something even more white sidling across the surface. I asked my companion what it was, she said she thought it might be squid. What a mess, no wonder the place looked half empty even with an almost captive audience from the Palace theatre directly opposite. You go once because it is convenient, but not again, unless its for pizza and anyone can reheat or microwave pizza, can't they? Shirley Ridyard.

Tapas PrincessDecember 11th 2007.

In regards with Pizzeria Italia, this place is regarded to be a joke within the eating elite in Manchester. Last went 5-6 years ago where I had the most disgusting meal EVER. My lasagne was so salty that I was nearly sick and despite asking for another one to be cooked, couldn't finish that for the sheer blandness. I swore I would never step over the doorstep again. But I 100% agree with Countryboy, Don Antonios on Portland street is the best authentic italian in Manchester. The food is delicious, the staff are fantastic (they once spent the evening updating my husband on the football scores as he was missing out on a vital match!) and the ambience is just right. The open kitchen is a nice touch and their tiramsu is heaven on a plate. God I'm salviating now just thinking about it.......

NeilDecember 11th 2007.

Last time I was there I fell asleep! How spooky. It was a good eight years ago and it was the company and the alcohol rather than the food that induced the sleep. My wife still hasn't forgiven me. I remember the food being OK but it's a shame to read such a poor review. Perhaps the fact that I've not been in eight years shows that 'OK' food is nowhere near good enough.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

I had been going here for many years and always enjoyed the restaurant and found today, unfortunately, it seems to have closed down.

stejaskiDecember 11th 2007.

I meant Pizzeria Italia,restaurant and elite by the way!

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

..“ dont worry anonymous, the pizzeria will re-open shortly under new management, with a bit of a revamp and spring clean, hopefully you will all be returning.Jonathan, hopefully you will enjoy”

Gordo knows whoDecember 11th 2007.

This place HAD a sister restaurant Isola Bella where Shimla Pinks are, apart from a Saturday night the place was nearly always empty and therefore eventualy closed. Even in those days the food was totaly under average. Just proves the old adage location location location. Roll on the rebuilding of this site

secret squirrelDecember 11th 2007.

Anonymous..Whilst I agree that most people who complain about restaurants know **** all about what really goes on in one (ie.a lot of hard work), surely one of the great things about the internet is the democratisation it presents to the average person. If rubbish restaurants (or any other business for that matter) go out of business because they are getting repeatedly slagged on forums, surely that's good isn't it? (look at what happened with bank charge refunds via money saving expert). I believe sugarvine sends all punter reviews from its site to the restaurant concerned, even the ones that are defamatory (which they don't display). It's up to the restaurant to address any issues that are real. As for service... I am always super polite to bar and restaurant staff because having worked retail for five years as my first job, I realise how rude many customers can be. Unfortunately many people in the service industries take the attitude that beause you get a few idiot ignorant customers then you drop your standards to the lowest common denominator. Surely better to see what the customer is like first? Nice customer, nice service, good tip.There are too many places in Mcr that I refuse to re-visit because the service was so bad. For any bar/restaurant staff that want to vent their spleen about t*at customers check out this facebook group...How To Behave in Bars and Restaurants...www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2686536264...It… might be worth while for some of the "beautiful people" (self appointed no doubt)to read as well, to perhaps appreciate that acting like a knob isn't cool at all really.

eugeneDecember 11th 2007.

Numero = terrible. Been twice just to make sure the first time wasn't a nightmare i had concoted after a heavy night on the bourbon, but no. The service is shockingly bad- headless chickens comes to mind- food so-so..lasagne that surely was microwavable pap? However the seafood risotto was VERY nice. Deserts that took half an hour, after repeatedly tellign them we had to go..had to leave in the end without them. Will not go back to Numero again. Such a shame as the venue is very nice

CountryboyDecember 11th 2007.

Woodsy has it almost right. Numero's food is average at best, but the service is appalling. Add a 'Manager' who repeats 'I hear what your saying' but clearly doesn't, and it is one place I will not return. I love Italian food, and for authentic well cooked food and excellent service try Ristorante Don Antonio on Portland Street, you will not be disappointed.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

For awful service, terrible, terrible food and watered down wine try Villagio on Canal Street. First time I've ever walked out of a restaurant in my life.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2007.

For a great Italian in the city try Numero at Manchester235, you have to be 18 to enter as it's part of a casino but you do not need to be a member as it has a separate entrance.The food is a modern take on Italian classics, much more than pizza and pasta dishes and not too pricey! The modern decor is chic and relaxing and the staff are excellent. A million times better than the above!

Michael BDecember 11th 2007.

Bloody Hell!! What a can of worms you have opened. I am pleased to say that I have never dined at the gaff. As for the decor which I know hasn't changed from day one - it is probably aiming for some sort of English Heritage protection order. The architect for P Ital was also responsible for the 'Toast-rack' of which he once told me..."you know you're getting old when one of your buildings becomes listed and your still alive"!...You should all know better especially that member of Manchester 'Dining Elite!'.....please

GrahamDecember 11th 2007.

What I really hate is the pretentiousness of San Carlo. The food is ok but the service is horrible, downright nasty, too right about the latin career waiter being a bit crap. Usually they're failures that's why they are stil waiters at forty.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 11th 2007.

Anonymous I think you're wrong about Manchester's restaurant scene being poor. It's actually very good in the low to high mid-range. There are a couple of outstanding top notch restaurants too. A Michelin star would be nice but isn't essential. I was in Santiago this year, Antwerp last year, Stockholm too. None had the level of mid-range restaurants over a variety of cuisines that Manchester offers. Antwerp and Stockholm had better outposts of top top excellence but I still would prefer the variety here,say, a local real ale at the Marble, a starter at the Market or the Northern Quarter, a main at one of Sam's, Grado, River Restaurant, Luso, EastzEast and a pudd at the French. Cheese at Room. Bubbly at the same place. Then another closing pint of ale at Knott. That's a real night out. As for your comments about non-professional and critical web posters then that's the beauty of the web. Food makes people want to talk and that's what these message boards allow. Perhaps the restaurants which are criticized might take the comments on board and react, rather than blame the ranter. And many people are not just destructive but creative too. I've not been to Don Antonio's for about fifteen years for example so that's something Confidential will now try after the recommendations here.

SushmitaAugust 27th 2012.

Yippie, Pizza's have been always my favorite food stuff. They have finest varieties of pizzas to crave for. They keep introducing different cuisines in their menu. I loved the ambiance as well as food serve by them.
<a href="cravencurryhouse.com/r-testimonials.html">Pizza… Restaurants in Lancaster</a>

David in CheshireAugust 27th 2012.

Hmmm, I strongly suspect the above post of being spam, if not actually Spam. Badly written and spelled, could it be a real contributor who wanted to reawake long-buried memories of Pizzaria Italia? No, it couldn't.

Are you suffering from a SpamBot which has failed its GCSE English?


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