It’s rather a unseasonal reference to make but the line from Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody, that “the old ones are the best”, sprung to mind when deciding to eat at a restaurant that has effectively written itself into Newcastle food folklore.
Family-run Sabatini has been filling Geordie stomachs with Italian cuisine for two decades from its base on the Quayside’s King Street, and it’s not hard to see why.
I’d visited the restaurant around five years ago on a Saturday night as one of many customers in a packed dining room but, after deciding to re-visit an old favourite on a Monday afternoon, the atmosphere was a lot more tranquil.
I must admit, the layout of the venue had somewhat slipped my memory, but one thing I did remember was the warm welcome as soon as you walk through the door. I’m pleased to report that things are very much status quo in that regard.
The generation of the family running the business now obviously take great pride in their jobs and the brand, and our servers were very attentive from the word go.
And the sound track of Italian power ballads was rather interesting. I felt like we’d stepped back in time to a Eurovision Song Contest of yesteryear.
Style, Design and Furnishings
Sabatini’s biggest brownie point in the design stakes is earned by how bright and airy it is. It is split into two areas – the main restaurant and a relaxed lounge with warm fire. While feeling slightly delicate after a few too many fizzy waters the night before, myself and my eating partner weren’t ready to slump into a comfy armchair just yet, so the big yet still welcoming dining area suited us fine.
While other Italian eateries in Newcastle really over-egg the homely pudding, with some ending up looking slightly cluttered and verging on claustrophobic, Sabatini’s layout ensures that you and your company can enjoy your food and catch up without fear of a stray meatball landing on your lap or someone earwigging on your conversation.
Food and Drink
On its website, the restaurant boasts that it serves truly authentic Italian food, brought to diners by its expert Italian chefs.
Now that’s a rather bold claim to make since, when most people go for Italian, they do so because they have a craving for a quality carbohydrate fix but want the hole filled by something that could come straight from Rome rather than out of the microwave or a pizza box.
We decided to choose from the special lunchtime menu and I plumped for a quintessentially Italian starter – good old minestrone soup.
While I’ll admit it wasn’t the most adventurous of choices, I’d had minestrones in the past which were like a game of find the vegetable. However, Sabatini’s take on the classic soup was full of hearty greens and diced potatoes meaning that it was filling but still left plenty of room for a main course. My friend opted for the more exotic sounding spinach and goat’s cheese tortina and, like me, was full of praise for his choice – but was also ready to take on a second course.
When it came to our mains, it was a case of great minds think alike as we both decided on a Romana pizza – a thin and crispy dough base topped with tomato, mozzarella, ham, spicy sausage and chicken.
It most certainly hit the spot with both of us although I’m glad I ordered a pint of water between courses as the sausage had a kick that required a few sips after consumption.
With two courses for £11.95 it was a meal out that didn’t break the bank, particularly given the size of the pizzas, which we didn’t quite manage to finish.
Our total bill including a pint of soft drink each came to £28.40 and we were more than happy to leave a tip on top of that.
Are You Being Served?
As touched on before, the Sabatini staff were on hand to help without being intrusive and friendly without being sickly sweet.
The pleasant surroundings of their workplace was echoed in their demeanour.
If, as I was tempted to, I had ordered my pizza without the spicy sausage I’m sure this wouldn’t have been met with disdain.
Sabatini, at 25 King Street, Newcastle, NE1 3UQ, opens from noon to 10.30pm, Monday to Saturday. Happy hours are noon to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, and until 5pm on Saturday.