Friday night....the end of a busy working-week and the cause of a celebratory tipple or two with like-minded chums. Yet, on this occasion, after our chosen happy hour had all but dried up, the girls and I found ourselves within the realms of that commonplace conundrum; feeling tipsy, desperately hungry and with little money left in our pockets whereby one usually questions whether to continue the carnage or simply call it a night. However, with Renato's situated upon the charismatic cobbles of King Street - just a stones-throw away from where we sat - it was an easy decision to follow-up the festivities thus far with a couple of pizzas from their affordable range...
Date and Time: Friday 23rd March 2012, 21:00
Name of Establishment: Renato's
Location: 19 King Street, Bristol*
Reason for Visit: Three famished females embarking upon 'après-drinking dinner-time'!
Steeped in history and given its proximity to Bristol Old Vic theatre, Renato's is a treasure trove of theatrical memorabilia with stage-show related posters that capitalise the wall-space and a hall of fame which sports the autographed head-shots of its rather more famous clientèle, (including the likes of Barbara Windsor, Alan Rickman and Sir Ian McKellen). Furthermore, the combination of a friendly, family-oriented ambiance and the nooks and crannies of a wonderfully old-school watering hole makes for a notably atmospheric spot - its enigmatic quirkiness further enhanced by rich-coloured décor as well as mahogany table-tops, sporadic candle-light and a little chintz here and there! Lastly, due to the venue's indubitable popularity, seat-less souls comfortably perch amongst larger parties; an occurrence which is surely testament to the relaxed disposition of the space overall...
Onto main event whereby pizzas are ordered at the bar, created from scratch, and collected from the counter within the right-hand pocket of the establishment. The problem here is the excruciating nature of the waiting game whereby, after honouring the initially allocated time-frame (of no less than twenty-five minutes on the evening of our visit), one finds themselves sent back to their seat, ticket in hand, for another stint of torturous tummy-rumbling. Although this is unsurprisingly frustrating, it does seem to evidence the use of an authentic pizza oven and the obvious care taken in regards to the preparation of each and every dish – not to mention constituting a considerable degree of freshly-baked appeal! We could have of course, ventured towards the rather more formal restaurant area (or, the 'Taverna dell' Artista' to be precise) which may have proven a little less sluggish given the presence of table service and yet, I had become somewhat accustomed to the notion of tucking ourselves into a cosy corner amidst the excitable buzz of the Friday-night crowd...The girls and I opted for two pizzas between us, (from the sixteen available), plus a portion of garlic bread (£2.50) which fared very well given its light, doughy consistency and appropriately balanced pungency. Of the pizzas, the Inferno (£7.95) was a winner for me with its combination of rich tomato sauce and melting mozzarella which had been liberally spread onto a crisp (and really rather sizeable) base. To finish, thinly sliced and subtly seasoned salami and a touch of palate-warming chilli which, unfortunately (for me), did not quite have the kick that warranted the connotations of the fiery rubric upon the menu. Our other selection was the Artistica (£8.25) which basically comprised the classic ham and pineapple pairing – and this, a well-executed version that had been generously topped with good quality ingredients; thereby facilitating the notion that good things really do come to those who wait!
Dessert presented the option of a scoop or two of ‘Gelati' which the girls and I chose not to indulge in given that we had enough vino within our possession to drown a hippopotamus! Yes, although this is not an establishment sporting a fancy wine list, a line-up of familiar favourites seems to reflect its unpretentious edge; plus at just over three-pounds for a decidedly drinkable Chardonnay, I certainly wasn’t complaining!
In short, it may well be difficult to bag oneself a seat and it's true that waiting for your pizza to be ready for collection can be compared to waiting for rainfall in a desert, (incidentally, the 'ladies' also leave little to be desired given their unthinkably poky handling which, as a result, manufactures a cross-legged queuing system up to four people deep) but, the cheerful charm of Renato's is simply undeniable and despite these pitfalls, the quality of the fare, enormous portion sizes and value for money overrules anything that may be considered a negative. Lastly, given its 'late-license' which stretches to the opening hours of the kitchen, Renato's is an attractive alternative to the kebab van on the centre and, to be fair, if it's good enough for the multitude of celebrities that have frequented this venue over the years, then it's most certainly good enough for me!
And now for the second opinion…
The Best Foodie Friend (BFF) gave Renato’s a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described this venue as a 'cosy pizza cave'!
*Renato's can be found on 19 King Street, Bristol BS1 4EF - Telephone: 0117 929 8291