Our visit to Simply Italian in Rochester High Street. My co-conspirator and I arrived at around 19.30 and immediately as we stepped inside the door we were greeted with a cheery “Buonasera, would you like a table for two”. We didn’t, we were actually about to dine with two friends, we were quickly seated at a table for four and presented with the menu and offered a drink while we waited for our guests.

We ordered two glasses of house red that arrived promptly along with some lovely warm ciabatta and a small dish of Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar to soak it in. We were also offered a dish of mixed, marinated olives while we scanned the menu for the delights within. Our guests arrived and joined in with the consumption of the house red and we were all agreed that, this, along with the olives and bread had transported us to Italy as if by magic.

There was just the right amount of hustle and bustle, hand gestures and fast talking to recreate the image of several visits to Italy. Our first course (prima) arrived, all four together, ten out of ten for that, we were offered black pepper or sauces, although there was no need for them

My Calamari was extremely good, the lightest batter you could imagine and the squid had a very slight bite without being at all like eating an inner tube. My partners Bruschetta was generous and loaded with a topping of tomato, garlic, Basil, oregano and olive oil. The mushroom starter that is a speciality of the restaurant was a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. All in all Si, won the first course hands down.

Sticking with the seafood I chose a pasta dish of tagliatelle with Salmon for my “secondi” the rest of the group had, in no particular order, tagliatelle with a mixture of mushrooms, Penne with pan fried chicken, goats cheese and a Napoli sauce and finally a very large Calzone, which is an Italian version of the Cornish Pasty. We must have looked a strange bunch, stealing small pieces of each other’s meals. Nobody commented so I guess we got away with it, we all went for a simple ice cream desert, although I protested as I wanted the taste of that salmon with the beautiful sauce to last as long as possible.

To finish the meals we ordered three coffees and one “digestivo” of Lemoncello, if you have never tried this you are missing out. Its warming and fresh and somehow seems to leave your mouth in Italy while the rest of you comes back to the UK, to the grey and damp after a fantastic meal.

Full marks to Guiseppe and everyone else at Simply Italian, we had really good food and really good service without it being intrusive. A busy, bustling place and so they deserve to be.