A dream come true… but not the Sophia Loren bit

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In my daydreams I’m a ruggedly handsome Italian trucker gallivanting around Calabria with the young Sophia Loren as a hitchhiking passenger.

In between the inevitable capers – you know: stuff like fleeing the Mafia after inadvertently necking back a load of their contraband limoncello – we eat simply and well at trattoria and osteria.

I suspect that such pitstops may well serve unfussy dishes such as salsicce con cavolo rosso.

Which was by great coincidence the starter I ate at La Galleria, an unassuming Italian gaff tucked away upstairs in a side street in the centre of Birmingham.

La Galleria

It’s a bit of a hidden gem – a place that serves pizza, pasta and a few more sophisticated meaty and fishy dishes in a space that verges on the kitsch, with its plastic flowers and naff prints.

But let’s not moan about the decor for, to subvert a phrase from Marc Antony, I not here to praise La Gallerie, not to bury it.

So let’s start with the salsicce con cavolo rosso, a hearty dish that wouldn’t have been to Sophia Loren’s taste but hit the mark for me.

La Galleria

Three dense, herby Italian pork sausages lay in a much reduced tomato and red wine sauce rich with onions and flecked with strands of sweet and earthy red cabbage.

Two slices of good bread – lightly fried in olive oil, I think – lay at the side.

Nothing fancy – just deeply satisfying and massively flavoursome fuel.

La Galleria

Opposite, Ms Loren scoffed daintily a simple but enjoyable salad of rocket, figs and mozzarella that was ever so slightly over-chilled.

Simplicity was also key to my main course – a dish hardly ever found on the menus of Italian restaurants in Britain.

Spaghetti – perfectly al dente, by the way – came with a dressing of olive oil, garlic, dried chilli and parsley.

La Galleria

It’s something that’s eaten in Rome by late-night revellers who want to soak up the booze they’ve sunk.

A bit like a post-pub balti, I suppose.

And it’s easy to understand why – it’s substantial and packs flavour.

Here, at £7.95 for a bowl, it’s surely one of Birmingham’s culinary bargains.

La Galleria

A side order of red onion, tomato and basil salad provided a bit of freshness and extra nutrition.

The spaghetti, king prawn, white wine and cherry tomato dish eaten opposite was, again, far more delicate than mine and, again, much enjoyed.

There were plenty of prawns, the pasta was cooked spot-on and the balance of flavours worked well.

La Galleria

And so to my my dessert of cannoli – a crisp tube of chocolate pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta.

This Sicilian staple came with pistachio ice cream and dabs of cream that looked like it came from an aerosol.

Sophisticated? Not on your nelly.

Good? Yes.

La Galleria

I drank a couple of glasses of adequate Chianti whilst Ms Loren drank only water.

Service throughout was efficient and friendly.

Don’t expect culinary fireworks if you visit.

But expect good ingredients cooked solidly well and very competitively priced.

Need to know

Pizzas kick in at £7.95.

A bowl of spag bol will cost you £8.50.

Expect to pay over £20 for a fillet steak.

There are vegetarian options.

It’s chill friendly.

La Galleria is licensed.

It’s open seven days a week.

La Galleria

5a Ethel Street, Birmingham B2 4BG. 0121 643 5933.

www.lagalleria-birmingham.co.uk

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