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Debilish delight.

IT WAS time to check out the new menu at our favourite little Italian eaterie, Buonissimo. With its friendly service, buzzing atmosphere and tasty dishes, I believe it's one of the best restaurants in the suburbs.

And it could also give quite a few of those big chain Italian restaurants a run for their money.

My husband Pete and I hadn't booked a table, but we turned up on a Tuesday night at around 6pm.

The restaurant was empty, but the friendly waitress had to make sure there was enough room for us because of later bookings - a busy restaurant on a week night during the credit crunch is always a good sign.

Fortunately, there was enough room and we were seated in a cosy corner of the venue.

We both fancied a bit of bread to start with so went for the misto di pane Buonissimo (pounds 5.95) to share.

This was made up of the breads on offer but in a sharing plate. It featured crusty rustic bread served warm with a whole bulb of slowly-baked fresh garlic and br-uschetttopped with crushed peas, pancetta and goat's cheese, all drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

There was also another bruschetta, this time topped with mixed seafood in a spicy home-made arrabbiata sauce.

Obviously eating a whole bulb of garlic may fill some people with fear - especially if you're a vampire!

But fear not, this garlic is of the sweet and unsmelly variety, which you just spread onto your bread.

Both bruschettas were equally tasty. The sweet crushed peas coupled with the pancetta and goat's cheese is a must and so is the seafood dish, which has a good kick of chilli, and is topped with calamari, muscles and prawns all chopped up into little pieces.

This was a pretty filling dish, but we were still looking forward to our main meal.

I ordered the Gamberoni E Porri (pounds 10.50). This is linguine pasta tossed with fresh salmon, king prawns, leeks and peas. Coated in a light cream sauce, finished with pine kernels and fresh chives, it was delicious.

It was recommended by the waitress, who told me it's the dish she swears by. The peas once again were sweet, popping in my mouth like crackling candy. The prawns were big, juicy and fresh tasting.

Evil The salmon was succulent and meaty, too. It all came in a sweet, yet well seasoned, sauce.

Pete chose the Risotto Al Nero Di Seppia (pounds 10.50). This was Arborio rice cooked "al dente" with fresh salmon, king prawns and calamari. The ingredients are tossed with black squid ink and baby spinach, finished with smoked salmon and caviar.

Despite the dish looking "evil", as he described it, Pete thought it tasted divine. It had, he added, a bitter taste to it, maybe because of the squid ink, and the portion was enormous, too.

He defeated "evil", however, and managed to guzzle a dessert wine (pounds 3.95) afterwards, while I went for the Bomba Di Cioccolato Con Sorbetto Alla Pera (pounds 4.95) - a sticky chocolate and pear pudding with a soft Belgian chocolate centre.

Served warm with a scoop of pear sorbet, it was gorgeously soft and fluffy, and there was a great helping of sorbet to dip the cake into.

The service was outstanding at Buonissimo. Our waitress was helpful with the menu, and her recommendations were spot-on.

Other staff were also extremely helpful and friendly, even when the restaurant started filling up.

There wasn't an empty table by the time we left!

The menu changes seasonally, and this one will be revamped in October, so it's worth getting over to Buonissimo to taste some of the delightful dishes that we had before the next lot are brought in.

And, of course, you can always return to sample the next menu - I know we will.

The bill, also including a bottle of house wine, one beer and tip, came to pounds 55.

ANUJI VARMA Buonissimo, 1 Albany Road,. Harborne, Birmingham. Tel: 0121 426 2444.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2009
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