Where do you go for a pre-theatre meal? Rosanna Rothery often pops in to Giovanni's in Barnstaple.
GIOVANNI'S in Barnstaple is a place I often head to if I want an entertaining curtain-raiser before going to see a show. I tend to think of it as the "pre-show show".
A cast of well-groomed staff in smart costumes serve traditional Italian fare, in a flamboyant, attentive manner. The waiters, who are always charming and immaculately turned out, tend to follow a script of romantic-sounding lingo – they spout an attractive mini vocabulary of Italian words alongside English.
For those, like me, who often like to have a pre-theatre meal (served both swiftly and early in the evening) at a restaurant conveniently situated right opposite the Queen's Theatre, it really makes for a rather entertaining warm-up. The food is always served with a flourish and panache.
Tonight, I eschew the dough and pasta creations the Italian eatery is known for and have a Baccala Alla Napoletana, which is a fillet of cod to you and me.
It's cooked in tomato, garlic and white wine, with the addition of herbs like basil giving it a suitably Mediterranean flavour.
My co-star for the evening has the house special Tagliatelle Della Casa which is noodles with bolognese, mushrooms and cream sauce. As it turns out it makes for excellent fuel – she needs the stamina to sit through a mammoth three-hour show a bit later.
When it comes to sweets, these Italians seem to like it cold (a bit of a contrast to the comforting hot puds often served in this part of the world) and we're offered a selection of refreshing-sounding iced logs and ice cream as well as a few specials.
I have a panna cotta which is a delicious white cream topped with chocolate. My co-star has the Amaretto Trifle which she said was "a delight: creamy, chocolatey and with a good kick of Amaretto".
As shows go this I would say this is an audience-pleasing formula: pizza and pasta are always popular and this slice of Italy is certainly served with a flourish.
Of course, many people would prefer to linger over an Italian brandy with friends but for us this is just the end of Act One. We hoped the second half would be performed with equal style.
The bill: The cost of the above meal for two with drinks came to £45.95.