FOOD REVIEW: BB's Italian Restaurant, 119 Devonshire Street

THE best-laid plans and all that. We were heading up to Crookes by car for a pizza when we got caught in the recent flash floods and ended up parking in Sheffield city centre and seeking out somewhere nearby.

My other half used to go to BB's Italian restaurant on office dos with his former workmates and enjoyed himself, so we thought we'd try our luck.

Leaving our dripping umbrella with a rapidly-growing group of its friends at the door, we inquired after a table for two and were in luck.

The very friendly woman who was front of house wasn't checking her list as an affectation – it was only early evening and the place was already buzzing.

BB's, which must be the narrowest restaurant in Sheffield, is affectionately known as the Tardis by some regulars. It goes back a long way and packs in a surprising amount of tables without being claustrophobic. Upstairs there's room for larger parties to gather.

The place is decorated like many an Italian restaurant here and in the mother country – rough Artexed walls are covered in pictures of home, old travel and film posters, caricatures and a big cartoon of the Italian football team. Further evidence of BB's love for the football team – the only beer on sale is called Forza Azzurri and the staff's smart black polo shirts boast their 2006 World Cup win in gold lettering.

This is a place that attracts a mixture of families, students and the aforementioned office groups or parties of friends celebrating birthdays. They also get pre-theatre and City Hall audiences.

The restaurant has been run by the Frusciante family for about 10 years. Wife Jill is front of house and husband Antonio is in the kitchen and two of their daughters work as waitresses. The third now has her own place in Burton on Trent.

Jill told me that the family have been involved in running a long list of Italian restaurants since 1980, including La Taverna on Birley Lane, the Flying Pizza on Glossop Road, San Lorenzo on Sharrowvale Road and Pizza Torino on West Street.

The prices look a bit steep at first – lots of starters are around the 6 mark and the main courses can go up to about 14-16.

However, a bit of astute menu-searching can find some bargains: you could share a starter as portions are generous and order a pizza or pasta dish and cut the main course bill in half that way.

Also, you can bring your own wine and, if a group asks in advance, the restaurant is more than happy to provide a set menu for 15.

There is a good wine list and, as Andy was driving, I tried a large glass of house red Montepulciano at 2.95, which was fine. He had a bottle of beer at 2.50.

After our friendly and knowledgeable waitress Carla had confidently gone through descriptions of the blackboard specials, I ordered the risotto (6.50), followed by tuna (14.50).

Andy stuck to the menu and had cheese garlic bread (5) followed by a Napoli pizza (6.95), which has his favourite anchovies on.

There's plenty of choice with a large menu plus three starters and three mains on the specials board.

The deal was to split the starters and our waitress, realising this, thoughtfully brought us two side plates.

The risotto was a fantastic red colour, made with a red pepper sauce and red pepper pesto, and came decorated with black olives, tomato slices and rocket.

It was as good as any I've eaten, perfectly cooked and full of flavour. It also went very well with the lovely, fresh-based pizza-style bread.

When a waiter offered us some black pepper my heart sank in anticipation of him grinningly wielding one of those giant phallic pepper grinders. But BB's has gone for something far more modern, one of those battery-operated affairs.

The attention to detail is impressive, especially on such a busy night. We didn't have to prompt for any part of our order and when I dropped a fork a replacement was at hand in seconds.

Our main courses continued the good impression.

Andy's pizza was very tasty and the base was as fresh as the garlic bread had been. They must have a proper pizza oven somewhere. I never saw where the kitchen was.

My tuna had been well cooked in olive oil and was smothered in a good tomato sauce dotted with capers and black olives. It came with a side dish of sauteed potatoes with rosemary, garden peas and carrots. They looked like they had been kept hot under a fierce heat but tasted fine.

After a bit of a rest we couldn't resist the puddings, once we'd worked out what c/c referred to on the desserts blackboard – cheesecake.

We were offered one of those terrible menu cards with pre-made desserts on but ordered homemade tiramisu for me and triple chocolate cheesecake for Andy. I also had a very good espresso.

The tiramisu was fine but there was a lot of it and for me it could have done with a good shot of booze in it to lift it. The cheesecake was fabulous but incredibly rich and it defeated Andy. He finished his lovely vanilla ice cream that came on the side, though.

Our bill came to 48.95 including drinks and coffee.

Verdict: Well worth stepping inside this Tardis.

Open: Monday to Saturday 5pm to 10.30pm and midday to midnight in December.

BB's Italian Restaurant, 119 Devonshire Street, Sheffield. 0114 279 9394.

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