Cherwell

Choosing the best Italian on George Street

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Franco Manca, Bella Italia, and ASK Italian are all situated on George Street, with Zizzi’s a bit further down. All four chains claim to offer good, Italian cuisine. But, ASK wins hands-down.

To start, due to the constraints of a student budget, we should consider student discounts. Bella Italia wins, with 50% off pasta and classic pizzas from Monday to Wednesday.You can fill up on a hearty, tasty bowl of Lenticchie (pasta with lentil and mushroom ragu) for just £4.50. It’s perfect for a cold day, and comforting after a challenging one

Franco Manca’s undiscounted prices are impressive, competing with Bella’s discounted ones. Zizzi’s has the NUS Card 30% discount Sunday to Thursday, but their prices always seem a bit higher than its competitors. However, ASK also competes with Franco Manca’s and Bella’s prices, as any student with an NUS card can get a delicious lasagne for just £6.60, on a Monday or Tuesday, using the 40% off-food discount. For prices similar to a Wasabi meal, and cheaper than a hot meal at Itsu, you can dine in style at ASK and there never appear to be queues, unlike for Franco Manca or Bella.

Next, interior design. Franco Manca is nice. It is always busy, with an expected queue out the door in the evenings, but the set- up, of close-together tables and exposed piping on the ceiling, suits the resulting loud atmosphere. Bella Italia and Zizzi also have quite close-together tables, paired with darker lighting and some plush sofa chairs at the edges. Darker lighting and plush seating seem more suited to a private chat and quiet meal, which is hard to have in these spaces.

ASK, again, comes top. It’s got bright lighting, which is not harsh but instead makes the space feel open and large. It has more varied seating arrangements than its competitors, which are given more space within the venue. This gives the whole restaurant a bright, relaxed feel, more like a housing interior than the busier layouts in Franco, Zizzi’s, and Bella.

The crucial rankings regard the food. ASK wins hands-down, in part because their menu is varied. Both pizzas and pastas have been thoroughly enjoyed there, and the vegan menu has delicious options such as a pasta dish with spinach and olive tapenade: what a combination.

The lasagne has already been praised, and their Pistachio and Olive Oil Cake, which has won a Good Taste award, needs to be tasted (and devoured) before you’ll believe that it’s a good combination. Bella, Franco and Zizzi have no wonderful, surprising puddings like this. Franco’s pizzas are great, and Bella does good pasta, but something about ASK’s menu is particularly fresh and appealing. Whilst Zizzi has a similar menu to ASK, it seems still less varied, and the prices are never as good.

Staff at Franco, Bella and ASK are all friendly, as expected. In ASK, they’re generally a bit less rushed which helps the atmosphere be a bit more relaxed. Overall, ASK is the best of Italian cuisine!