Caesars is an institution in York and still going strong after 30 years. MAXINE GORDON pays a visit

IT was Friday night, 7.30pm, and York was eerily quiet.

Restaurants we passed on our way to Caesars in Goodramgate were half full.

When we arrived at the well-known Italian, there were only a few other diners in the restaurant.

We were ushered towards the front window area – happy to be given a table for four even though there were just the two of us. It was nice not to feel hemmed in, and when I realised my chair was wonky, I simply switched to another one rather than ask for a beer mat or to switch table.

Our waiters were charming, full of smiles and courtesy. The same had applied when I had telephoned to make my booking; the waiter inquiring how my day had been before taking the reservation.

We were tired after a long, hard week at work and began with a drink: a large Moretti beer for my husband, Nick, and an Aperol spritz for me (both £6.95).

They perked us up and soon we set to work on the starters, sharing a tomato and garlic pizza bread (£5.95) and a portion of king prawns (£7.95).

Both were super, and a brilliant start to our evening.

The pizza base was thin and crispy (just how we like it) and the topping sweet and tangy. It wasn't planned, but the pizza starter worked brilliantly with the sauce that accompanied the prawns. This was sensational, a glistening, thick tomato salsa dancing with flavours of garlic and wine and a high kick from the chilli. We spooned it over the pizza bread and ate it all greedily. We paused, however, to savour the tiger prawns – all four of them. They were big and juicy and cooked to a T. Impressive, and we could have happily eaten more of them.

The main menu ticked all the boxes in what you might expect from an Italian restaurant. There's pizza, pasta and risotto as well as chef's specials and a selection of grilled meat and fish. You can also have salads as a main or a side dish.

Nick was decisive and quickly chose another favourite: lamb chops (£17.95). Make sure you specify the chops when you order lamb because roast rack of lamb is also on the menu – happily, our waiter checked to make sure we were ordering the correct dish.

The dish came with a garnish of tomato and mushroom and a choice of chips or mixed salad. Nick chose the Diane sauce and the fries and wasn't disappointed.

It was impressive to look at: the four chops nestled on a large white plate with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and a wire basket full of golden French fries. The Diane sauce came in a mini jug, and was thick and glossy, emboldened by slices of mushroom and notes of Brandy and mustard. Nick said it went really well with the lamb, and he enjoyed dipping his chips into it. The meat was cooked well, with plenty of colour to each chop, ensuring the flavour was maximised.

I often choose sea bass when in an Italian, but for reviewing purposes thought it better to try a pasta dish.

And what better one to judge than that much-loved staple: spaghetti Bolognese (£10.45)?

This was very good, the pasta soft like noodles rather than al dente with a bit of bite. The sauce was rich and plentiful – striking the right balance between meatiness and tomato flavours. Smothered with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few twists of black pepper, it was a joy to eat.

By now, we were feeling pretty full. But again, mindful of our reviewing duties, we agreed on a dessert.

This was an easier choice because of the six listed on the dessert menu, only two were homemade, and only one Italian – the tiramisu (the other was crème brûlée, a French speciality). All desserts are £4.95 and there is a choice of gelato (£3.95) or an Italian cheese board (£7.50).

The tiramisu portion had been cut from a large tray of the dessert and decorated with swirls of cream and finished with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It was lovely and moist and soaked through with deep coffee flavours. Luckily, it was nice and light – like all the best trifles. It wasn't the best version I'd had, but it was decent.

As the evening progressed, Caesars began to fill up. And it reminded me why it had been several years since my last visit – is gets pretty noisy! The acoustics of the building are no friend to anyone wanting a quiet night out with friends or an intimate one with a partner.

As more diners arrived and the noise level rose, Nick and I were grateful for our early booking and for the relative peace we'd had to enjoy our meal.

Caesars is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It's had a few changes of owners over those years, but the fact that it is still going strong is testament to the fact it does the main things right: serving tasty, authentic food – with a smile.

It's pretty good value too: our bill for the night was a nudge over £60.

Caesars Italian restaurant

27-29 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LS

T: 01904 670914


Food: Very tasty 4/5

Ambience: Can be noisy 3/5

Service: Friendly 4/5

Value: Decent 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press