Pizzeria Francesca is Hidden in the side streets of Jesmond, but is a restaurant that everyone has heard of. The popularity of this restaurant is well-known and can shape your dining schedule!
I receive a phone call from my mum. “Would you like to go for a meal at Francesca’s tomorrow?”. Unfortunately, I had made plans to cook Katie Coyote’s Grilled Chicken Pasta, so I declined. “What about next Saturday?”, she followed with. My mum loves going to Pizzeria Francesca’s Jesmond, as does my one of my older brothers. Me on the other hand, share the opinion my Dad had. We just didn’t “get” it! What is it about Francesca’s that make people flock to the restaurant? What is it that gets people to queue up to gain entry? Or even start queuing before the restaurant opens!
I’m not one to turn down a free meal, so we made arrangements to go.
My mum has always been one for being punctual. Sometimes a little too punctual. She insisted that we picked her up at 4:30pm so we could beat the 5:00pm queue at the restaurant. We were parked up by 4:45pm and saw that there wasn’t a queue outside. Her plan had worked and we were first in! Wrong! The queue started inside the restaurant and snaked from the bar back to the entrance, back towards the bar and to the door. Two more couples after us and the queue continued into the street passed the window.
Francesca’s doesn’t do bookings and never has. I can totally understand this from a business point of view. This way there isn’t any dead time at the tables, with no one eating or ordering. Although I understand it, I don’t like it!
Starters at Francesca’s
Imogen and Abigail were with us and it was nice to be out as an extended family. Imogen insisted on a prawn cocktail. My mum ordered the Garlic Mushroom starter, I chose the Tricolore.
My mum is predictable and loves routine. I think that’s why we had to leave at 4:30 etc. She always chooses the Garlic Mushrooms and loves them. I wanted to be a little different. Instead of a safe Potato skins starter, the Tricolore (in my mind) almost verges on salad and with Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato, there was no chance of Catherine picking a sample off my plate. The Avocado was firm to cut but soft to eat, pretty much perfect. I sort of expected it to be a little softer. There was a slight basil dressing and it was a delicious light starter.
Catherine decided to choose the Beef Stroganoff from the Specials board, that hangs by the bar. I missed it, but usually, as your queuing, you have plenty of time to read it. My Mum ordered her usual, Garlic King Prawns, but a starter size portion. Garlic on Garlic, maybe this was why my Dad didn’t like it! Normally I would choose Penne Carbonara, but last time we were here I felt it lacked flavour. It tasted just like cream and pasta, no cheese or bacon flavours seemed to come through. So for a change, I chose Chicken Kiev… with Chips. The kids wanted to share a pizza and spaghetti Bolognese. So Catherine ordered them half a Hawaiian pizza and half portion of Spaghetti Bolognese, but as a half portion. If you’re confused, I was and the waiter certainly was.
The Garlic King Prawns, were delicious. The Stroganoff was tasty and came with a large bowl of saffron rice. The Pizza / pasta combo came on one plate and we had a second plate to divide it up ourselves. My Chicken Kiev was literally that. A huge plate with a Chicken Kiev at one side swimming in garlic butter. The side bowl of chips helped to dip in the butter, but it was never going to be mopped dry.
The Bill Please
After we’d ate our fill the bill was quickly settled and at only £65 seemed a bargain. Included in our meal were a litre bottle of red wine, 3 Cokes and a half of lager. I’ve been on meals out with just Catherine and I that hit £100 easily. It is definitely a bargain, but is this what keeps bringing people back? My mum loved it and “thoroughly enjoyed her night out”, we enjoyed the night out with the family, but in my opinion, the food was just OK. I’m yet to be wowed by the place and I’m sure I’ll be revisiting, but I doubt it will be from my own choice. Did I choose the wrong meal? Have I always chosen the wrong meals? The atmosphere is great, I love the rustic decoration, the feel of a family home that’s been turned into a restaurant and then expanded. The theming is amazing, but for me, that has to come with amazing food too.