On the whole, you can’t go wrong with a simple, no-frills local Italian when you fancy an easy dinner out at the weekend.
While that’s mainly because a Mediterranean menu is relatively predictable and will undoubtedly have something to please even the fussiest eaters, I think it also has a lot to do with the unique charm that can only come from a nation that truly loves its food.
La Pergola, in Wellingborough Road in Northampton, is no exception to that particular rule.
A small, family-run place squeezed between the high street shops, the inside is surprisingly roomy.
The high chapel-like ceiling, hefty wooden beams and brick fireplace give it that rustic, old Italian village feel, while the crisp whitewashed walls and leather seats bring it up to date.
It was very quiet on a Sunday evening, making for a relaxed and peaceful evening out to round off the weekend.
We started with a beer for him and a large glass of the house red wine, Italian of course, which was very nice and reasonably priced at less than £6.
We skipped the starter and selected from the main menu of typical Italian classics; a meat feast pizza and a seafood risotto.
Though it may generally be hard to get a pizza too far wrong, this one was towards the top end of the scale, freshly made to order and baked in the traditional stove oven, and the chef was even kind enough to swap a topping.
My generous plateful of risotto was perfectly cooked and well seasoned – if a little salty and with the odd rogue piece of mussel shell that had to be picked out.
It was made mainly with tomato and herb, rather than cream, meaning it wasn’t overly heavy and there could be no cheating on proper flavours.
Throughout our meal the staff were friendly and attentive, on hand should we need anything, and clearly happy to have a casual chat with their customers.
The dessert menu was quite small, but with a well-chosen selection of trusted Italian crowd-pleasers, including the ever-popular tiramisu and several flavours of gelato, each at less than £5.
I went for the Italian trifle and can happily say that I have been converted.
This exotic twist on the standard British favourite swapped soggy sponge fingers, weak jelly, instant custard and sickly whipped topping for layers of Italian sponge soaked in a subtle fruit liqueur, rich chocolate mousse, a light vanilla sauce and a sprinkling of tiny dark chocolate drops.
Simply presented in a glass, it was neat, tasty, and definitely hit the spot.
My friend’s lemon cheesecake also came nicely presented with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce and, whether it was homemade or shop bought, he said it was one of the best he had ever ordered in a restaurant.
Even though we decided not to stay for coffee or more drinks, the staff were in no hurry to rush us out, allowing us to take our time to settle the bill and wander home.
All in all, it was a lovely evening in a relaxed atmosphere that took us a million miles from the busy high-street outside. While the food was not especially adventurous, the pizzas especially (£8 to £10) and the main courses (£7 to £15) were decent quality and came in generous portions for the price.
Friendly family staff, tasty food and a generous glass of good wine – what more could you want to set you up for the week ahead?
While the restaurant itself does not appear to have its own website, you can find reviews and photos on its Facebook page.
To book, or for information, call them on Northampton 624466, or email info@thepergolanorthampton. co.uk.
Value: Generous portions at reasonable prices
Food: Basic but tasty
Disabled access: All street level
Parking: Wellingborough Road, free after 6
Total cost £42.60