Maurizio's Dining & Co., located on Mill RoadInes Letellier

Speaking as that person, that friend whose favourite part of eating out is doing a 20-minute deep dive on the menu online two days before, a full specials board almost sends me over the edge. They leave my best-laid ordering plans in disarray, but choosing off the specials menu lets me feel that bit spontaneous – and yes, embarrassingly – adult.

Maurizio’s Dining & Co. on Mill Road cuts all the extraneous bull from its lists of specials. I like how a changing set of dishes can let chefs take more risks, and encourages seasonal thinking. But, honestly, it can sometimes become a contest of who can spell the most unnecessary Frenchified term in chalk, or who’s foraged for chickweed in the dead of night in a full chef’s outfit. Aside from the regular menu, this restaurant has the pizza specials board (on once a week), and the pasta specials board. Done.

The food has no delusions of grandeur. As someone who knows her way around a vegan menu, I’ve experienced one too many not-so-superfood salads. I’m an unrepentant sucker for somewhere that puts carbs over concept. Food trends come and go, but a good bowl of pasta is eternal.

“You’ll be rewarded with ever-changing independent Italian cuisine”

That said, the attractive profit margins on pasta have led to a recent explosion in pasta joints – one I’ve visited is Bancone, in London by Trafalgar Square. One thing that worries me is that the pasta prices in these places might seem on the edge of affordable, until you see the portions. You’re not the discerning customer’s Pizza Express if you have to buy three sides minimum just to have a decent meal (and the smaller dishes are often better. My main course at Bancone was considerably upstaged by a starter of cabbage).

I wouldn’t go for the pretty pricey salads at Maurizio’s, but the antipasti boards can be ordered with a drink deal. Watch out for the 2 for £10 on all cocktails deals on Thursdays. Our chilli relish is hot, a nice surprise, and perfect with the generous bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I don’t think we do enough with white beans in Italian restaurants in the UK, so I’ll take any opportunity to order them, regardless of context or personal cost. I wouldn’t have the power to resist a dish with just cannellini beans and olive oil, so I’m not the most neutral of observers here.

The highlight of so many meals is garlic bread; it’s not a dish that needs to be well made to be enjoyed. Somehow, though, this one is brighter, crisper and simply garlickier. Any sauce on your plate will be lifted by liberally dipping chunks of this into it.


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A plate of rigatoni alla norma we share has such an appealing resistance to it, it almost bites back. I like it this way, but if you prefer your pasta less al dente, you might want to stick to the antipasti and pizzas. The pasta is dressed without too much fuss; the aubergine gently dissolves into the tomato sauce, but I’d have liked some added texture or brightness on top.

For £13.50, it has great technique but I just needed that bit more bougie for my buck. A large aubergine pizza at Aromi, admittedly a more cramped environment, costs just over £5 and is pretty much as good.

Go just that little bit out of your way and you’ll be rewarded with ever-changing independent Italian cuisine. While I’d recommend it if you’re looking to take advantage of a deal or order fairly light, if you want to go all out, you might be left regretting the bill.

In an impromptu swoop of delicious idiocy, we order another load of garlic bread. It’s too much, but so often the best things are.

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