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Taste Test: A taste of Italy NewYork style.

Byline: Tony Barrett

ACCORDING to reputation, New York's Little Italy is home to the finest Italian restaurants outside of Rome and Naples.

But for lovers of linguini and cannoli who can't make it to the Big Apple, there is a taste of Italy, New York-style, much closer to home.

Frankie and Benny's may be based on a very modern retail park in the heart of Liverpool, but take one step inside this themed restaurant and you are taken on a culinary and musical journey back to 1950s America.

I visited the Edge Lane restaurant on a Friday evening when it was packed with families all coming to share in the Italian-American experience.

Straight away it was clear that this would not be a quiet eating experience with hits from the 50s belting out of the speakers creating the kind of buzz you would normally find in a bar rather than a restaurant.

Anyone looking for a little, light snack should probably try somewhere else. Portions are big and bold and concerns about cholesterol levels are best left at the door.

After changing my mind about 15 times I decided to start with the slightly obvious but always reliable BBQ chicken wings (pounds 3.95).

Served with plenty of rich barbecue sauce - hence the towelettes they arrived with - there was enough meat on these wings to make them just the right size starter.

Being more adventurous and not quite s o addicted to meat, my partner opted for Frankie's fried calamari (pounds 4.85) and, although the mere sight of squid disturbed me, she assured me it was a wonderful dish cooked in a beautiful garlic and herb coating with a Neapolitan sauce.

Guess I'll just have to take her word for that.

Sticking with the poultry theme despite the obvious attractions of steak and ribs and numerous different types of pizzas, I chose the New York chicken (pounds 10.45) for my main course.

Served with French fries, the chicken was again covered in barbecue sauce, only this time it was also accompanied by lashings of Monterey Jack cheese and a slice of bacon.

My partner, on the other hand, had decided to go for the slightly less filling spaghetti ragu bolognaise (pounds 6.25) which tasted so good she refused to let me steal any.

An eating strategy which leaves enough room for a pudding is always ideal but I had allowed my overwhelming desire to devour as much meat as possible jeopardise my chances of tucking into one of the delicious sweets on offer.

As I struggled to come to terms with my schoolboy error my partner calmly ordered a slice of Benny's vanilla cheesecake (pounds 3.25) which arrived almost immediately.

I managed to stop myself from ordering a portion of my own - but only just.

The good thing is Frankie and Benny's is only a couple of miles from town so I'll be back. And next time I'll leave room for the pudding

Food File

Venue: Frankie and Benny's, Unit 10, Edge Lane retail park, Liverpool Tel: 0151-228 9699 Opening: Mon-Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-10.30pm.

Atmosphere: Nice and lively Value: Very good. Bill (including drinks): pounds 42.50 Disabled access: Yes

CAPTION(S):

U.S. STYLE: Frankie and Benny's at Edge Lane
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2005
Words:546
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