Review: Piola Italian restaurant in Newland Avenue, Hull
A lot of people can be sniffy about Italian restaurants, viewing them as inoffensive and a bit of a lazy option when it comes to dining out.
The cause is not helped by the widespread scourge of the Italian chain, no names mentioned, that are flogging their branded salad dressing in Asda.
Piola is no hidden gem by any means. It is pretty hard to miss, right in the middle of Newland Avenue.
But you probably will not know the name straight away, although their loyal clientele make sure it is bustling every evening.
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I had heard very good things about it from friends, and the interior was certainly a step up from your usual chain fare.
It's cosily decorated and, on a particularly cold night, we were itching to get inside.
I was struck by the service the moment I walked in, our waiter immediately seated us with a welcoming smile, took our coats and brought over the menus.
Such attentive service can be rare in a lively restaurant on a Saturday night, but here nothing was too much trouble. A warm Italian familia embrace seemed par de course, which was bene.
With a healthy amount of specials to choose from, we had a quick browse then ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
The usual uncorking was followed by the palava of trying the wine.
Obviously, my knowledgeable palette found it very crisp and fruity, but I was particularly impressed with the authentic Italian wine that had been shipped over. The label was completely written in its native language.
Delving straight into the antipasti, we were both torn between two options so we decided to cut our losses and share.
I plumped for home-made smooth chicken liver pâté served with beetroot chutney and toasted bread (£4.95) and my partner had goat's cheese and caramelised onion bruschetta (4.95).
We both agreed the paté just tasted like chicken liver plopped in a blender and was a tad unadventurous, even with the beetroot.
The goat's cheese bruschetta looked like "they'd run out of goat's cheese," according to my partner.
But appearances can be deceptive and the flavours more than made up for it.
There was plenty on there to give it a rich taste, with just enough caramelised onion and a drizzle of vinaigrette to add a kick.
Piola has tried to focus on the little things, which add up an impressive whole.
The gilded frames adorning vintage pictures on the wall, mahogany tables and mismatched chairs all give the restaurant a homely feel.
The attention to detail was obvious throughout most of the restaurant, but I personally could gave done with a little more imagination in the side dishes.
With a choice of fries, salad and vegetables, I went for veg.
I was expecting a medley of roasted Mediterranean root vegetables to accompany the 8oz prime sirloin steak in a tomato, anchovies, capers and olives sauce (£14.95), I had ordered.
The steak was beautifully cooked, but I could have done with a little more pizzazz around it than the broccoli, carrots and boiled potatoes it came with.
My partner's pan-fried breast of duck in a port and wild cherry jus (£14.95) was a bigger hit.
Proclaiming the duck to be "perfectly cooked," between gulps, the fair-sized bird was gone very shortly.
The large portions left no room for dessert – a good thing in my weight watching book. On the whole, this was an enjoyable dining experience , and with a few minor tweaks it could be excellent – even better than mama used to make.
Where: Newland Avenue, Hull, HU5 2NN.
Call: 01482 444 344.
Open: 11.30am - 10pm (Last booking 9pm).
Accessibility: On ground floor.
Family friendly? Yes.
Parking: On-street parking.
Quality of food: Very good.
Service: Extremely good.
Value for money: £55 for two starters, two mains and a bottle of wine.
Would you go again? Yes.
On the menu
Cozze Marinara (£5.50): Steamed mussels in white wine garlic and parsley sauce served with homemade crusty bread.
Calamari Fritti (£5.25): Crispy deep fried squid rings served with a garlic mayonnaise dip.
Rigatoni Alla Norma (£8.50): Rigatoni pasta sautéed with rich tomato and diced aubergine sauce finished with pecorino.
Pollo Crema e Funghi (£11.95): Pan-fried chicken breast, sautéed with mushrooms in creamy white wine sauce.