WITH its prominent position on Wakefield Road just before Grange Moor roundabout, Orlando’s Restaurant is something of a local landmark.
My memories of the Italian eatery are of a cosy little prefabricated ‘hut’ in a car park next to Rockwood filling station – that’s how long it is since my previous visit.
I was astounded to learn that Orlando’s moved into its present purpose-built premises over 11 years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago since we were tucking into pizza in the old, dimly lit rustic shed with the red gingham tablecloths.
Entering into the replacement stone building, I was a little disappointed to discover that the modern interior, while larger and no doubt far more practical, had lost some of its original charm.
The style is brightly lit open-plan continental with an open kitchen. Pale terracotta walls add a touch of colour, framed by a white ceiling and white tiled floor.
The latter is, admittedly a highly practical choice, as the restaurant is a popular venue for children’s parties. This is not fine dining, it’s family friendly. In fact there were two birthday parties in when we were there and restaurant staff made sure they were well looked after.
Orlando’s is a landmark, not only for its location, but also for owner Orlando Gubbini, a well-known member of Huddersfield Circle of Magicians. And I’m glad to report that in this respect, everything is as before.
Orlando was his genial self; friendly and helpful, without being intrusive.
The four of us were engaged in deep discussion, putting the world to rights in between bites. But as we were settling the bill, Orlando demonstrated his deft sleight of hand and made us laugh with a clever little trick.
So, on to the food and drink. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has to be one of Huddersfield’s best bargains at £14.95 for a litre bottle. It arrived with complimentary crusty bread and homemade tomato dipping sauce.
The restaurant caters for all pockets with an extensive à la carte menu, a good choice of daily specials and a £12.95 set menu for two courses and a glass of wine. There’s also a pensioners’ lunch of two courses with tea or coffee for £6.95 on Fridays.
Normal prices start at £3.95 for soup of the day, £7.95 for pizzas and £9 or £10 for pasta. We ordered a mixture of pasta, pizza and seafood specials. Whoever was in charge of the bill kindly gave us a discount as though we had ordered from the set menu.
Thank goodness we only had the starter portions of mussels or we’d still be eating, and the whitebait could have been shared too.
The calamari fritti (squid), like the mussels, was fresh and competently prepared, but lacked the wow factor.
The pizzas and pastas again arrived in generous portions and were good, but not memorable.
No-one could accuse the restaurant of skimping on ingredients, however. My pizza Emily arrived topped with copious quantities of parma ham and rocket salad, a favourite combination. The starter portions of pasta were enough for us as a second course.
Following a letter from a sweet-toothed reader, Ms (or Mrs) J. Frost, we cannot write “no room for puddings” any more. So, in the interests of balanced journalism and, despite having no room for puddings, we ordered two.
There’s a huge range of Italian and old-fashioned puds, several of them homemade: tiramisu, brandy basket, banana split, cheesecake, homemade brulée, ginger sponge, sticky toffee, apple pie.... They were rich and hearty and I recommend sharing.
The competition is hotting up between Italian restaurants, with several new ones opening in and around Huddersfield over the last couple of years.
Each has to find a niche if it is to survive. Orlando has his. He is perhaps the most child-friendly of them all and any competitors will also have to put in years of training to compete with his skilful magic tricks.
VERDICT: Extremely family-friendly and recommended for a gathering involving children.