San Marino

Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Sunderland Echo Review

10th July 2014

The old adage “never judge a book by a cover” is one that’s certainly applicable to this little slice of Italy.

Its exterior is pretty inconspicuous. I’ve driven past it countless times and it’s always just blended in with all the shop facades along Chester Road.

In all my years living in, and eating my way through, Sunderland, this was my debut San Marino meal. First impressions were great, the welcome’s warm, the atmosphere friendly and informal and the decor is surprisingly trendy, with olive green walls, dark woodwork and feature walls displaying black and white family photos from the old country.

It all helps to create a cosy ambience – you can see why this restaurant is still going strong almost two decades after opening its doors.

Fresh from a shift at the coal face of news, colleague Monica and I visited on a Friday night before 7pm which meant we could order from the Happy Hour menu.

It’s a cheap as chips option with the bulk of the starters – such as garlic mushrooms, bruschetta and potato skins – coming in at £3.50.

You can also pick up any pizza or pasta for £4.95 or chicken dishes, such as deep fried chicken breast with smoked paprika, for £7.20.

We flitted between this menu and the more weighty a la carte option over some free bread. No teeth-shattering crusty French stick here.

The warm rosemary foccacia we were treated to was light, packed with flavour and a perfect way to whet our appetites.

After such a flying start to the meal, my starter was a bit of a damp squib. I’d gone for the deep fried rice balls stuffed with mozzarella, served with smoked chilli relish.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plus points to this dish – three golf ball-sized mounds for £4.95 perched on top a bed of fresh peppery rocket and a chilli relish which packed a punch without being overpowering. However, I couldn’t taste any cheese once I’d tucked into the trio, which left them tasting a little flat and stodgy.

Monica’s starter, however, was a triumph.

Bruschetta can be a basic dish, but here you get plenty for your pounds: a sea of plump plum tomatoes peppered with garlic and herbs almost threatening to break the focaccia bread underneath.

Main meals were served swiftly and soon made up for my starter.

I’d gone for the spaghetti scogliera (£9.75) – the only pasta not available on the Happy Hour menu.

I’d ask for penne instead of spaghetti – in a bid to avoid any potential slurp stains on my shirt – but the staff here are more than happy to accommodate your culinary needs.

The result was a seafood pasta feast of huge knuckle duster king prawns, which were some of the meatiest I’ve had, mussels and regular non-supersize prawns.

The sauce was delicate but delicious and complemented the main ingredients to perfection. Monica too, was impressed with her seafood risotto which was served with a light tomato sauce so as not to detract from the salmon and prawns.

Too busy tucking in, we hadn’t finished our wine before the meal – our only extravagance of the night at £17.90 for a bottle of Pinot Grigio – but there was no shooing us out the door here.

Sunderland Echo

7th Feb 2013

IT’S true when they say, looks can be deceiving. The exterior of San Marino Italian Restaurant, on Chester Road, doesn’t do justice to the treats it has inside.

I have fond memories of making regular visits when I was younger, but have to be honest and say I don’t go as much now.

However, after choosing to visit recently, I was delighted to find the food is still just as good as when the restaurant opened its doors in 1996 – and what’s more, it has been given a face-lift.

Olive green walls dotted with black and white photographs bring the décor bang up-to-date, and it still has homely Italian charm with a mural – hand-painted by the owner’s daughter – adorning one wall.

The generous menu has all the usual favourite dishes and the specials board has more exotic variations.

Braving the Arctic temperatures of the last few weeks, friends Leigh and Hannah and I ducked into the wee restaurant to catch up and warm up over some hearty Italian food.

Two portions of gamberoni (£7.95 each) one with chilli and tomato (diavola), the other with white wine and garlic (al aglio), were delicious to start, as well as one order of garlic pate mushrooms (£5.90).

The main courses were just as good.

I opted for mushroom ravioli from the specials board (£7.95). The home-made pasta and filling were rich and tender and as I love mushrooms, it was a perfect choice.

Other orders were spaghetti polpette (£8.45), consisting of tasty meatballs in a tomato and chilli sauce, and tortellini crema (£7.45), which is small pasta shells packed with meat in a light, creamy sauce

Both dishes received high praise and to wash it all down we ordered a bottle of house rose wine (£10.95).

Overall, the verdict was excellent. The food and drinks menus are reasonably priced, however, if you’re feeding a family, or just want a cheap meal, happy hour is not to be sniffed at.

Three courses cost £9.95 and any pizza or pasta costs £4.95. Happy hour runs from 5pm to 7pm.

Monica Turnbull

Chef’s Specials

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food”

 ~ George Bernard Shaw.

In a addition to the regular menu you’ll find the chefs at San Marino offer you a wonderful selection of seasonal specials on our ever changing Specials Board. Please visit the San Marino Facebook Page for the latest updates.

Here are a few examples of what you may find…

Spider crab Trieste-style
A gastronomic triumph of colour and flavour.

Spaghetti with Tuna
Italian pasta and fresh fish.

Swordfish with capers and lemonSwordfish with capers and lemon
A quick and easy recipe to help you discover the versatility of swordfish in the kitchen.

Lemon Sorbet
The Italian classic to round off a meal of fish.

Welcome to San Marino

San Marino is a classic Italian restaurant suitable for all occasions offering a excellent choice of dishes.

Our restaurant offers a taste of Italy in Sunderland in the heart of the North East of England. We place great emphasis on the freshness and variety of the menu and try to promote Italian ingredients and value whenever possible in the dishes we offer. What do we recommend?

Everything of course! If you have any particular requirement and if would you like any dishes prepared differently please just ask.