It was for a birthday party that I found myself in Zizzi’s this weekend. I haven’t set foot inside since my ex-boyfriend and I had a relatively irritating argument about the benefits of chain Italian food; as a student of Italian, he was left rather disappointed by (even!) Jamie’s.

I argued the proposition, so to speak: the democratisation of foreign food through cheap chain Italianate restaurants is a good thing. On next returning to one, I found that I had become just as snobby about them, left limp at the prospect of watery spaghetti and salmon in carbonara.

In any case, fast-forwarding about a year, I receive a message notification in which I, along with 20 people, am invited to Zizzi’s for a meal. To simplify things, we have been given a pre-booking system. At least, that was the theory. I must have attempted to pre-order my food about 25 times, but alas, the partyplanner received no notifications. I arrived rather bemused by the whole experience, but determined that a restaurant’s pre-planning failure would not deter me.

The party, a Quorn-sausage fest, was filled with vegetarians who all seemed to order the enormous and, dare I say, delicious-looking ‘Primavera Rustica’ pizza. When about 16 of these emerged all at once from the kitchen, there was plenty of waiter-based confusion, and I could not help but wonder why there seemed to be so few options for vegetarians on the menu. Props to Zizzi’s, however, that they easily managed to cater for a gluten-free vegan.

The meals came quickly. For a party so large, this was impressive – no less so when one considers that we were certainly not the only party. Despite their disastrous mealbooking system, it seems Zizzi’s is popular with parties. Given their speedy and very helpful serving staff, I am not surprised and if you are having a party in Oxford, I would recommend it.

However, the food is decidedly disappointing. My nduja pizza, the spiciest I could find on their menu, required plenty of chilli oil in order to make its flavour really stand out. The chilli jam blobs on top equally seemed to lack flavour. The cheese was nice, if rather sparsely sprinkled, whilst the base was in dire need of some salt. Essentially, the whole thing was a good attempt poorly executed.

Through gritted teeth, I have to agree with my ex-boyfriend: these chains, whilst they provide a great service in our restaurant-obsessed culture, are hardly inspiring. Perhaps lacklustre summed up my feelings as I left