“ Cuisine: Italian / Address: 43 South Street , Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1DR / Tel: 01243 839089 „
What is it?
Zizzi is one of a number of Italian restaurants based in Chichester's South Street. The building has full length windows across the whole front to let in plenty of light, whilst the interior still retains a warmth to it (in terms of mood, not temperature!) There are two floors, although I've only ever eaten downstairs so can't comment what it's like on the top - on the ground floor at least there is decent spacing between the tables so you don't feel crowded in.
What's the food like?
The food is Italian based so there are pizza's, pasta and risotto aplenty, with a few more unusual options if you fancy trying something a bit different. As I'm not a fan of thin based pizza's I tend to go for pasta or risotto. The last time we visited was Valentines day 2011 and if memory serves me correct I had a mushroom risotto which was delicious, although the portion was a little on the small side for my liking. My boyfriend had some sort of spicy pizza which he enjoyed and was happy with the portion size.
How about the staff and service?
The standard of service was good - staff were friendly and we didn't have to wait long for any courses. As I said earlier the last time we went was a valentines day and when we arrived only the set menu was laid out on the table - nothing on it took either of our fancies so we asked if we could have the standard menu which got us an odd look, they fetched us one anyway and we ordered off there with no problems.
How much will it cost me?
It's not a cheap restaurant, but I've certainly seen more expensive, with main courses tending to very a couple of quid either side of a tenner. Starters and mains are generally less than £5 each and tap water is available on request if you don't want to spend extra on drinks. As I think the portions are a little small though, the prices could be cheaper for what you get.
Would I recommend it?
On the plus side the restaurant is nicely set out and the food tastes good, but the portions could be bigger and or the prices less. I would recommend a visit if you're in the area but would be good if you had some sort of discount voucher, I will probably only return myself if I am in posession of one (these sorts of things come up fairly regularly online, although they tend to be restricted to certain days only).
The location is fairly convenient, in one of Chichester's 4 main roads, the train station is less than 5 minutes walk away and there is a fair sized car park just a couple of minutes walk away.
Having weathered the gloom of January and paid off our Christmas credit card bill, February dawned and we felt the need to treat ourselves to a meal out. Not sure where we fancied, our fate was decided by the timely arrival of a promotional email from Zizzi offering two main courses for £12.00. Thus one dark and gloomy windswept February night we donned coats and hats and ventured into Chichester to visit Zizzi in South Street.
In case you're not familiar with the chain, Zizzi offer Italian cuisine, and there are about 100 different outlets dotted throughout the UK. Broadly speaking, Zizzi offer a wide range of Italian themed dishes from pizza and pasta to risotto and salads.
~*~ Posizione ~*~
Zizzi is located in South Street, a short distance from the very centre of Chichester (known as The Cross). In the last five or so years South Street has become a bit of a hot spot for a decent night out, with loads of different restaurants and pubs to choose from. Chain restaurant wise, there's a choice from Pizza Express, The Slug & Lettuce, Prezzo, Wetherspoons and Café Rouge, and a quick five minute hop leads you to Nando's and Frankie & Benny's. However, South Street being a hot spot invariably leads to over congestion, and it can be a nightmare to park. The nearest pay and display car park is at South Pallant or South Gate (both a two/three minute walk away). However, mid-week evenings are not so much of a problem, and you may find limited spaces in South Street, or nearby West Street.
~*~ Benvenuto e Atmosfera ~*~
Zizzi in Chichester is located in a large and spacious building, which was actually the original theatre in Chichester (before the arrival of renowned The Festival Theatre in the 70's). As it's an old theatre, the venue has very high ceilings, as well as a mezzanine first floor seating area overlooking the main restaurant on the ground floor, as well as the kitchens. The overriding décor of the Chichester Zizzi is wood, wood and yet more wood. The walls are decorated in places with chunky logs, and the overall colour theme is brown. It's a modern and somewhat quirky décor. The kitchen is open plan and dominated by a huge wood fired pizza oven.
It was a Wednesday evening when we dined there, and the restaurant was extremely busy - full to capacity I'd say. The welcome we received was negative and to be honest we were very tempted to walk straight back out again! Let me explain: I'd used the Zizzi website to book a table online at around 4.15pm earlier that day. I duly received an email confirming the booking and informing me that the "Chichester team are ready and waiting for your arrival on Wednesday 2 February 2011 at 19:30. Can't wait.". Unfortunately, no one had thought to tell the Chichester team to expect us! We duly arrived at the restaurant at 7.30pm, only to find the manager had no record of the booking. When I explained it had been made online at 4.00pm (ish), he immediately pointed out that there was no way he would have received the booking, as NO reservations made on the Zizzi website after 4pm reach the restaurant. He made us feel most awkward and very unwelcome. I asked him why the Zizzi online system accepts bookings after 4pm if they don't reach the restaurants, and he abruptly replied that what head office did was not his fault, and the system was out of his control. This was not helpful and not reassuring, and his manner was most off-putting. He insisted we take a seat in the corner, whilst he grudgingly found us a table. Two ladies came into Zizzi whilst we waited, and one of them quipped - "You look like you're sitting in the naughty corner", and that just about summed up how we felt! After five minutes or so, we were shoe-horned into a small table for two near the kitchen, probably as punishment for our insurrection in booking online after 4pm, and not knowing any better. This was not the most pleasant of starts to our evening out, but we ploughed on hoping that the food would make up for it......
~*~ Il Menu ~*~
Zizzi offer traditional Italian cuisine with a good range of antipasti, pizza, pasta, salads and risottos on offer. Antipasti (starters) on offer are things like Mixed Olives, Dough Sticks, Calmari, Gnocchi (potato dumplings), Garlic Bread or Bruschetta to name but a few. Prices range from £2.45 to £6.00.
Main courses offer a super array of choice - not just the usual suspects of pizza and pasta, but more interesting meat and fish dishes such as Sea Bass, Agnello con Peperonata (lamb shank) or Duck Arrosto. All the pizzas are freshly baked on the premises in the kitchen's wood fired oven, and you can choose from Classic, Rustica (thin and crispy) or Calzone (filed, folded and baked). Pizza prices tend to range between the £6.00 to £12.00, with meat and fish dishes costing around the £12.00 mark.
If pasta is more your thing, then you have Al Forno dishes such as Lasagne, or the ubiquitous Spaghetti Alla Bolognese, or simply a plate of Ravioli. Pasta prices range from £7.00 to £12.00 per dish. Lighter meals are served in the form of Risotto or Insalate.
The dessert card is opulent and plentiful in choice, dominated largely by old Italian favourites such as Panettone, Tiramisu, Pannacotta, Zabaione (a rich custard concoction) and Gelato (Zizzi's own range of ice-creams). Dessert prices range from £4.00 to £5.00 each.
~*~ Il Nostro Pasto ~*~
We were offered a choice of olives or garlic bread with our drinks order - but we decided to have full-blown starters instead. My partner was tempted by Angelos' Mussels served in a marinara sauce of tomatoes, onion, white wine, chilli and garlic, but the manager put paid to that as he informed us that mussels were running low. Therefore we both plumped for Calamari instead - squid rings in crispy batter served with a garlic and basil mayonnaise dip. The Calamari were presented in a mini silver bucket lined with some greaseproof paper made to look like the pages of an Italian newspaper. Visually the dish looked rather quirky, well presented and interesting, and the taste certainly matched up. There was a goodly portion of at least 12-15 squid rings in the bucket, all coated in a thin, yet very crispy batter. The rings were accompanied by a garlic and basil mayonnaise and a wedge of fresh lemon. The only thing missing to my mind was a salad garnish on the side of the plate - I think a nice dollop of lollo rosso or frissée lettuce would have been a nice accompaniment to the dish and a good palate cleanser.
For main courses, we had a discount voucher (two mains for £12.00) so we were limited to specific sections of the menu only. However, I have say that the choices are plentiful and the selection not at all constricting - we just couldn't choose from the Carne e Pesce (meat and fish) or Rustica sections of the menu. This left us full access to the remainder of the mains on the card with plenty to choose from in the Insalate, Pasta, Al Forno, Risotto, Pizza and Calzone sections.
After some deliberation, I chose the Chitarra All Pescatora, which is calamari, mussels, king prawns and chilli in a tomato and white wine sauce with Chitarra spaghetti. I'd never heard of Chitarra spaghetti before, but it's evidently a traditional but slightly thicker spaghetti with rough edges, which makes it ideal for "holding" a thick sauce. I felt the pasta was rather over-done and didn't have much of an al dente bite to it that I'd expect from pasta. As for the pescatora sauce, this tasted predominantly of tomato, and I couldn't detect much chilli in it at all. The pasta dish came served with a nice selection of calamari rings, 6 or 7 mussels in their shells...but king prawns they were not. Calling them king prawns is definitely delusions of grandeur for these babies - I'd describe them more as tiger prawn in size, and they weren't all that plentiful. Initially I thought I'd only been served with one prawn in the whole dish, but I found two more hiding under the pasta. That said, I don't think 3 tiger prawns is a particularly generous portion for a dish that retails at £11.95. The mussels didn't match their shells either - I received 6 or 7 tiny, tiny mussels and 4 out of 7 shells were very, very large. The server grated a large quantity of extremely tasty parmesan onto the dish which gave it a nice added flavour. All in all - it was an OK dish. Nothing to write home about - simply average. I was rather glad I wasn't paying full price for it though.
My partner chose the Carne Piccante Calzone, which was a mixture of chicken, meatballs, bolognaise, mushrooms, chilli, mozzarella and tomato stuffed and folded into a pizza and served with a salad leave garnish. It came served on a plate looking like a rather large Cornish pasty. He felt he had a lot of pizza dough to eat and cut through to reach the filling inside; the filling being rather paltry in comparison to the amount of dough on the plate. He pronounced the filling as tasty enough - there just wasn't enough of it, and what there was had been liberally sprinkled with super-strength chilli. By the time he'd ploughed his way through it, his mouth was on fire.
Despite the dessert menu offering more than two or three very tempting choices, we decided to forgo anything else.
~*~ Le Bevande ~*~
Zizzi offer a full selection of drinks, most of which, not surprisingly, have an Italian origination. From the wine list there's Frascati, Valpolicella or Chianti as well as some choices from other countries. Beers-wise you're limited to bottled Peroni lager - on offer at a wincingly expensive £3.50 for a 33cl bottle or £6.10 for 66cl bottle. Himself decided on two bottles of beer, which added a horrendous £12+ to the bill for what was, essentially, a little over two pints of lager. I stuck to a more modest sparkling mineral water at £2.30 for 500ml.
~*~ Il Servizio ~*~
Officious manager aside, the service was very attentive and rather friendly. Our waitress was very busy, but full of smiles and as attentive as she could be. She stopped by several times to check our meals were to our liking, and we were offered further drinks and dessert at the appropriate moments. Unfortunately she rather let us down when we requested some black pepper with our calamari, as the pepper pot on our table was empty. She brought us another pepper pot, but that too was empty. We gave up at this point, and then tried again when our main courses arrived. The waiter who brought our main courses must have tried at least 10-11 different pepper pots on the shelf nearby, and they all proved empty. He finally brought us one that appeared to have some in it...but that too was sadly pepper less.
However, the manager is a different story. He really could have handled our arrival and supposed non-reservation in a better manner. We genuinely thought we had booked a table, and to be told that we hadn't in such an abrupt and know-it-all manner really didn't help matters. I have written to Zizzi complaining about the problems with their online reservation system (i.e. the information clearly not reaching the venue after a certain point in the day and their need to address it). I also complained that the Chichester manager needs to learn a little tact and diplomacy, and not take such great relish in belittling his clientele. I've received a generic email acknowledgment from Zizzi promising to get back to me, and I will, of course, update this review if and when they do actually address my specific grievance.
~*~ Raccomandazione? ~*~
Thanks to that timely email from Zizzi, we were in possession of a voucher offering us two main courses for £12.00. Therefore our total bill came to £37.00 for two starters, two main courses and three drinks. Certainly not bad value at £37.00, but I wouldn't have wanted to pay the full price of £46.00, as I felt the food was tasty enough - just not particularly outstanding.
Putting aside our unpleasant welcome, I thought the service was good and attentive. The food was nice - just nothing special. It's basically generic high street cooking with an Italian theme, and you can find exactly the same sort of thing in Pizza Express, Ask, Prezzo or Strada. In my opinion, if you're dining on the high street, you'd do better to head for chain restaurants like Café Rouge, the Slug and Lettuce or Nando's, as I always find their food to be very tasty.
Three stars from me; nice enough food, reasonable portions, attentive service, but definitely let down by the manager's rather negative manner.
~*~ Altre Cose ~*~
Zizzi is owned by the Gondola Group Ltd, who also own the Ask chain and the Pizza Express group.
43 South Street
Opening hours: 12pm - 11pm (NB: closes at 10.30pm on Sundays)
Telephone: 01243 839089
Website: www.zizzi.co.uk (or via www.gondolaholdings.com)
* The website displays the full menu, a restaurant search facility, and an online reservation system (which may, or may NOT work!)
* All major credit cards are accepted
* Disabled access is good in the Chichester outlet and there is also a specially designated ground floor disabled WC. The non-disabled WC's are located up a steep flight of stairs, but they were clean and tidy when used
* Dress code is relaxed and informal
* Vegetarian options are NOT clearly marked on the menu, but the staff were knowledge and helpful so it's probably best to ask if you're not sure
** Update **
I was most impressed to hear back from Zizzi in response to my complaint. So many places just don't bother to respond to anything negative, so fair play to Zizzi. The manager himself sent me an email apologising for the manner in which he came across to us, and felt he may have seemed a little stressed on the night (too right!). He has introduced a policy whereby online reservations are not printed off until 5pm on the evening, so that the problem hopefully won't re-occur. He has also offered us a chance for Zizzi to put things right, by inviting us to dine with them again to the tune of a free main course each with coffees to finish. I have been assured there is no time limit on the offer, so we will no doubt take advantage of our free meal at some stage soon. Thank you Zizzi - it's nice that my voice was heard.