THERE was a time when a working lunch out was a pie and a pint at the local pub.
But Britain has changed.
Today, we eat Italian like never before.
Every high street now has a crop of restaurants specialising in pizzas and pastas - and our diet will never be quite the same again.
Set in the heart of Horsham in the Carfax is Prezzo.
It’s one of the UK’s largest Italian restaurant chains. Founded in 2000 by Jonathan Kaye, it now has some 150 restaurants or so nationwide - with many more set to open this year.
It works to a clear cut formula.
And it’s a formula which works.
The setting is central. The decor is bright and airy - without being overwhelming.
It doesn’t have the charm of many of the independents but, despite being a chain, it does have a sense of individuality.
Bread and olives, pizzas, pastas, grills, risotti, calzone, al forno, and salads, are the key to the menu.
The food is good and the service is friendly and efficient.
But what I like most about Prezzo is its consistency and reliability.
It always meets expectations.
You can slip into Prezzo with friends knowing exactly what you are going to have.
There are never any unpleasant surprises.
And the food is keenly priced. Most of the mains are well under £10 a head and even the grills and little more.
There’s always a buzz there - of shoppers calling in and friends and colleagues meeting up. Some are in a hurry; some prefer to take a more relaxed approached in true Italian style.
All of which is not to say that Prezzo does not have the ability to surprise sometimes. This year, Prezzo embarked on its first ever collaboration with a celebrity chef. Italian Aldo Zilli created five new ‘V.I.Pizzas’ which are being rolled out across all its restaurants nationwide.
The Zilli V.I.Pizzas come in four varieties; a meat, a veggie, a fish and a light option. There is also a Zilli ‘North and South’ which is half meat and half vegetarian. All the pizzas were developed personally by Zilli in conjunction with Prezzo Executive Chef, Paul Lewis, and are priced at between £10.95 and £11.95.
It represents a novel twist on a restaurant formula which is always reassuringly familiar.