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This was my forst visi to Zizzi for 9 years, so I went in with an open mind not knowing what to expect. The venue is really very nice, a converted church in a very smart suburb of Cheltenham and the whole thing is very tastefully done so from a comfort point of view, so far so good. I went with my 2 children (5 & 8) and they both went for the kids menu at £5.95 which for a nibble, Pizza and ball of ice cream seemed like pretty good value. I had a Pizza and a beer, you cant go wrong... or so I thought. The waitress was charming and really looked after us however the positive stuff really ends there. I had high hopes but as usual it (for me at least) descended into the same old chain restaurant experience of mediocre ( i am being kind) food dirty glasses and a confusing bill. The Pizza was very poor indeed, as an Italian I have to declare interest here, I have experienced this, one of our national culinary treasures, in every corner of Italy and I think that this quality of pizza is what I would reasonably expect in a motorway service station. Industrial and indigestible dough covered with semolina flour for texture (thats the dusty coating on the base) and smeared with a sweet sickly tomato sauce and mozarella that sets like concrete after 5 minutes, and poor quality toppings. As I said perfectly acceptable in a filling station, not in a serious pizzeria, serve stuff like that in italy and you could well end up being deported! My kids were as unimpressed as I was and left half of theirs. The experince was toppoed off by a farcical conversation over the bill, I noticed that I had been over charged on the kids menus to the tune of £4 and when I queried this with the manager he informed me that as I had asked for a little ham to be added to the kids mushroom pizza he had to charge an extra topping, in other words 4 small slices of ham for £4 erm hang on thats £1 per slice is it not, the reply "thats the price of the topplings im afraid". Hmmmmm "is that written on the menu"? i asked, reasonable question i thought, "erm no sorry it doesnt actually say it on our menus" I was losing the will to live at this point but then came the killer line "well sir if you want to question the bill then there is a mark up, i mean that beer that I have charged you £5.50 for I actually buy in for £1.60" .... What!!! was he being serious, like I want to know the margin on each item..... holy moly. Well as "gesture of goodwill" he removed the £4 ham (which incidentally I would estimate at around 5g per slice making a Kg worth a handsome £200...nice work if you can get it) The corrected bill duly arrived, I then noticed that the artichokes I had asked for instead of olives on my pizza were also charged at £2, that is to say 6 Quarter artichoke hearts out of a tin or £1.32 per artichoke heart..... i was starting to get irritable and sent him away again to rebalance the books a second time..... Sometimes I despair of these chain restaurants, they start as nice little quality businesses that are then sold on to private equity firms run by greedy investors looking to turn a monstrous profit at the expense of their long suffering customers & staff by charging £1.32 for a tinned artichoke. Despite this bizzarre experience I really felt for the staff, many of whom it seemed didnt have a blinking clue what they were doing but were really trying hard to look after the customers and were probably being paid a pittance for the privilege so I left them a tip anyway as I think they deserve it especially as I am back at home writing my tale of woe enjoying a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and they are still at the restaurant flogging ham at £200 per Kg to disgruntled cutomers who never spotted it on the menu beacause it aint there....... hey ho....
I'd heard a lot about Zizi's before going there, so was expecting a lot from this place. Naturally, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
Part of a national chain of Italian restaurants, Zizis, has a good reputation for quality food at reasonable prices. Cheltenham's restaurant opened several years ago and occupies a space in an old church, just off Suffolk Square, not too far from the town centre.
My first impressions were great. The place was huge (not suprising perhaps considering it was a former church). It was decorated in ornate and decorative surroundings, much in keeping with the former church. Many of the stained glass windows remain, and the primary structure of the church remains intact, which was delightful to see.
Now comes my gripe. It was very clinical, despite the magnificant ambience within. The chairs and tables were lined up in rows, which made it resemble a school dinner hall more than a classy restaurant. This was a pity, and probably had more to do with the structure of the church than anything else. But the layout made it very noisy indeed, which was a shame because we had no barriers next to us, in front of us, or behind us; plus a large hen party had just sat down. We felt...exposed.
The other gripe was the bar upstairs which was stifling. A large fan provided some cool comfort but did not achieve a great deal. Again, planning permission evidently prohibited the placing of an aircon unit up here.
Food was brilliant. Freshly-cooked pizzas in a kitchen which you could see into. It was a glorious novelty being able to watch the chefs at work. Prices weren't too steep either at about £20-25 for a 3 course meal per head.
All in all, it was a good restaurant but could certainly benefit with some strategically placed barriers of some sort - perhaps some foliage, bushes or indoor plants, which could act as a barrier between tables - giving romantic couples some much needed privacy.