Restaurant review - Sabatini's, Newcastle Quayside
PUBLISHED: 00:16 14 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:00 20 February 2013
There are more restaurants then you can shake a stick at in Newcastle's Quayside, but there is one which has weathered the ups and downs of the area's popularity better than most<br/>Words by Sue Campbell
The staff at Sabatinis must love their work. Or perhaps they are very well trained. Or very well paid. Or maybe all of the above.
We were greeted with wide smiles from everyone - from the lovely bar person, Serena Lisci, to the handsome head waiter, Gianfranco Musciacchia, the welcome couldnt have been more genuine or warmer.
On a grey-ish lunchtime the world felt a bit sunnier as we were seated at our table by the attentive Gianfranco. He came to Newcastle from Italy in 1997 and stayed.
How could I not? he says. I met my fiance in Jesmond in Newcastle - although she actually is from my home town, Bari in South East Italy. How lucky am I?
Sabatinis has been around a long time - some 18 years - but looks fresh and sparkling. Its well placed - it overlooks the Sage music venue on Newcastles Quayside and is a short stroll from the Millennium Bridge.
With comfortable seating in a long mirrored room with painted ceilings and a bit of greenery, its the lunchtime haunt of a lot of professionals working in Newcastle city centre.
There was what looked like a group of half a dozen solicitors at one table, a gaggle of city slickers at another and a few twosomes, discussing office politics.
Sabatinis is known as an Italian restaurant, but in fact the focus is on Sardinian food. Its bit more earthy and simple and none the worse for that.
Lunch started with a surprise complimentary selection of bruschetta, then we moved onto our starters proper. I ate off the lunch menu - two courses at a well-priced 9.95 and three for 12.95 - and had home-made ravioli, filled with ricotta, saffron and orange zest, with a tomato and basil sauce.
I polished off the beautifully cooked pillows of pasta with alacrity.
My lunch partner ate off the a la carte menu and had antipasto -
an excellent selection of cold starters, lovely and fresh, and good value at 7.95.
My main course was a chicken and sausage casserole with mixed peppers, chilli, paprika, tomato and rice. It was a colourful concoction with lots of fresh flavours, nicely cooked, moist chicken and good spicy
My lunch partner plumped for Zuppa Di Pesce, a chunky seafood ragout in a light tomato and basil sauce, priced at 15.95. He was impressed with the fish - lots of it, well cooked and quite a variety - and the piquant sauce.
I forwent dessert - any more food in the middle of the day and Id have to have a sleep - but my partner went for a limoncello dessert. This comprised a semifreddo dome of icecream, with a limoncello centre that looked like an egg yolk, but, I was assured tasted like a dream. It also had a creamy, vanilla globe of Italian ice cream on the side. Dessert heaven.
I did however have coffee - good Italian coffee is a treat, and this was the real thing. And I need to add that while we didnt have wine with this meal, there was an excellent wine list of predominantly Italian wines to choose from.
As we approached the end of our meal we got to meet the owner of the restaurant himself, an equally smiley and attractive Fabrizio Saba, who was just 23 when he opened Sabatinis 18 years ago.
He came to Newcastle from Sardinia in 1988, and still goes back twice a year. He worked in the restaurant business for a short while then opened his own restaurant, Sabatinis, and has never looked back.
The Quayside has changed and evolved since I opened, but were still here and doing well, he says. I love Newcastle. I especially love Newcastle United - I have a season ticket and go whenever I can.
He says an emphasis on Sardinian cooking means that it is simpler more peasant food, and he designs the menu along with his head chef of 14 years, Daniele Peddis.
Sabatinis is well known and attracts its fair share of celebrities and footballers - all to the good for Fabrizio and his love of football - and its not hard to see why people return to this solid presence in a fast changing restaurant scene.
Sabatini Ristorante, 25 King Street, Quayside, Newcastle NE1 3UQ. Call
0191 2614415 or 0191 2616830.
Three of a kind
The North East has an abundance of great Italian eateries. Here are some long established restaurants you might like to try:
Panis, High Bridge, Newcastle.
A fashionable caf with a city centre buzz without ever being raucous. The menu is extensive and the food is authentic.
La Familiglia, St Marys Chare, Hexham. A family-run Italian restaurant in a cobbled lane near the Market Square. It serves traditional trattoria food plus specials
De Medici, Elvet Bridge, Durham City. This boasts that it was the citys first Italian, serving traditional food in a friendly atmosphere for 40 years
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