Tonight was the first time we've been to Zizzi (St. Albans), a chain restaurant owned by the ASK group. The 'Italian' restaurant is modelled similarly to Pizza Express and Carluccio's, in both style and cuisine (though Zizzi serves both pastas and pizzas, as well as traditional meals). Unfortunately Zizzi came no where near displacing the two as my favourite pizza/pasta chain eateries.
We had a selection of house breads for starter which mainly consists of red onion facaccia, Altamura bread and pane Pugliese served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is very similar to the bread tin that Carluccio's serve but noticeably less tasty. For the main course we had spicy Italian sausages served with lentils and lamb shank. The Italian sausages are pretty good with a nice hint of spice, but Zizzi was very stingy in its serving with the sausages (two of them) and lentils taking up less than half the plate served. The lamb shank according to Jenni was average, but the serving was again disappointing. One of our table goers had their stone baked pizza, which she found to be dry. Another had steak - which came out chewy and a chore to eat with, apparently. She quipped that it felt like cheap steak.
Fortunately the desert we had was the high point of the evening - food wise at least. The oven baked Panettone al Forno is a bread and butter pudding laced with raisins and dried oranges. Served with a dollop of cinnamon ice cream, it was tasty and rich. Shame about the rest. At least the service was good, but does it matter if the food is below expectation? Believe me, stick with Pizza Express, Strada or Carluccio's (which after today I think is very generous and offers extreme value for money). At around £20-25 per head with drinks, we can't believe what the fuss is all about.