With a gaggle of excited chums we hit the pub after work, followed by dinner at the big Italian chain of Prezzo in Newport High Street – where the post office used to be.
Matt’s calamari starter was curious, as if some misguided chef had found a way to take the seafood taste and chewy texture out of squid and replace it all with an anonymous batter. Alongside came a bowl of basil pesto mayonnaise dip that tasted and looked oleaginous and bland.
When the tre carne calzone arrived on the table the lively group stopped their chattering and gasped in unison – this was a spectacular-looking calzone; huge and golden, with a smattering of cheese on the crust and a reasonable mixed salad on the side. Inside the folded pizza Matt found pepperoni, chicken, pancetta and peppers – and steam. Lots of steam. It was a serviceable calzone, but in quantity and quality the contents were not a patch on what can be had at East Cowes’ Prego.
At the other end of the table, Cat was enjoying her penne. This simple and tasty pasta dish featured basil pesto, mint, lemon and peas stirred through pasta, and wearing a pleasing beret of creamy burrata mozzarella decorated with a scattering of chopped aromatic basil leaves. This was Cat’s second choice; she might have strayed to the roasted salmon fillet if it had not been a rather alarming £15.80.
Matt was starting to fear that his meal was going to be completely mediocre. He hoped the delicious-sounding honeycomb smash cheesecake would be the dish that actually excited his interest, but alas no. The ‘crunchy honeycomb pieces coated in chocolate’ were vague sprinkles that looked like chocolate raisins and tasted of sugar. The cheesecake itself also tasted of sugar, and was drizzled with a sauce that tasted of sugar. It was as if Prezzo was determined to keep its food as inoffensive and forgettable as possible. In this, it succeeded.
Cat had more success with her salted caramel chocolate tart. Four identical raspberries stood sentry around the flan, making it an attractive dish. The high-sided pastry case was deep enough for Cat to fill with cream, submerging the golden chocolate pieces and helping to mellow the smooth sweet salted caramel.
Tre carne calzone £12.95
Pesto and pea penne £11.90
Salted caramel chocolate tart £6.40
Of course the best-known thing about Prezzo is that nobody pays full price. No, there are vouchers galore online and a few moments internet research had the party signing up for some e-newsletter on the promise of a 40% discount on main meals. Proceeding smugly to the till, our excitement soon turned to confusion as the labyrinthine processes of actually redeeming a Prezzo offer were explained, and in fact, despite the patience of the staff and careful examinations of the smallprint, it turned out that we could not use that discount at all, for reasons that were beyond us. It’s possible that Cat’s courses were from the summer set menu but, as she’d only drank tap water, had missed out on the included drink. By that time we had lost the will to interrogate our long-suffering servers any further and were more inclined to catch up with our friends tapping their watches in the street, eager to get the bus.
Prezzo is an impressive use of the cavernous old post office, with the ex-delivery yard repurposed as a little garden which caught the setting sun. The service was friendly and polite, and our waiting staff succeeded in matching the right dish with its owner on our table of nine. The menu had plenty of Mediterranean promise, but seemed on the pricey side for some dishes, with a barely perceptible difference in the cost between the regular and large pizzas. Although attractive, the food was mostly mediocre and formulaic. If you can get the discount system to work it would be almost tempting.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Nicely converted venue
- Good service
- Food well-presented
- Expensive if you have to pay the actual price