The chef is from the south of Italy, the owner from the north, and the restaurant itself is virtually in the middle of England; Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire to be precise. What could possibly go wrong? Not a lot, as it turns out.
Zitto e Mangia – which means ‘shut up and eat’ in Italian – is located in the middle of this charming market town, which is famous for its abbey. And the unpretentious name sets out the stall for the whole experience. You’re more than happy just to do as instructed. Except that the three of us who went there certainly didn’t shut up: we talked, a lot. And we certainly ate too. Again, a lot.
The whole place is focussed on the food. On the walls, there are plenty of quintessentially Italian posters and images: you’re in for a treat if you like classic Fiat 500s and Vespas. But the décor isn’t cluttered or fussy, and the furniture too is equally functional. You’re not there to admire the table. Instead, you’re meant to be looking at the menu. Shut up and eat, remember?
On that menu is absolutely everything you’d expect: all the Italian classics, majoring (naturally enough) on pasta and pizza. Although there’s also steak and chicken and risotto too: enough to make you emerge with the silhouette of Luciano Pavarotti. Not to mention a wide selection of classic antipasti and desserts. But there’s nothing on there that comes as a particularly big surprise – which means that everything has to be good if it’s going to stand out.
The omens, however, are good right from the start. There’s a buzzy, genuinely Italian vibe to the place, and even on a Monday night, it’s pretty busy. The chef from Naples is pumping out pizzas, and there’s an array of clean plates heading back from happy-looking customers. It feels right from the moment you walk in. There’s an electric hum of conversation, with a pleasing absence of schmaltzy Italian music that implores you to come back to Sorrento; or save your love. There’s not a giant pepper mill to be found anywhere either.
We started with the mixed antipasti and some cheesy garlic bread. Those with less formidable appetites would probably have no need for the pizzas that were to follow, such was the generous array of cheese (both on the antipasti and the garlic bread), cold meats, salad and prosciutto put before us. The garlic bread in reality was a mini pizza: perfectly crispy rather than resembling a bathroom sponge marinated in used engine oil, which often passes for garlic bread in other places.
And then onto the main event: the pizzas. Two of us – with a hankering for spicy salami and olives – went for the calabrese, while the other pizza was a vegetariana. Three sizzling disks arrived: ample platforms of crispy dough, smothered with an enticing lava-like swirl of bubbling tomato and cheese (among many other things). All three of us were delighted with our choices.
The all-important ratio between pizza base and topping was perfect, but most importantly of all, authentic. Full disclosure: I myself am half Italian, therefore incredibly selective about pizzas (of which I have eaten more than Frank Sinatra had regrets).
And this one was as good as any – in the middle of Tewkesbury, of all places. Everything was washed down with Moretti lager – adding to the genuinely Italian flavour – and the whole visit was a pleasure from start to finish, thanks especially to Natasha and her team.
The mix of Italian influences in the kitchen definitely works, but this place caters to local tastes as well with a series of established crowd-pleasers from start to finish. In fact, probably the only thing that’s missing from the food repertoire is ironically Tewkesbury’s most famous product. Anyone for a mustard pizza?
Zitto e Mangia, 25 High Street, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, GL20 5AT, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1684 297017
Located in the centre of Tewkesbury, Zitto e Mangia is open Monday to Friday from 5:30pm to 10:00pm and Saturday from 5:30pm to 10:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria
Insider Tip: Make sure you’re hungry, and I recommend booking ahead when it’s likely to be busy.
Price Band: Inexpensive to medium
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.
Photographs courtesy of Jack Boskett Media