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CHEAP pizza places are 10 a penny in Newcastle and to say we are spoilt for choice is something of an understatement.

But I reckon I’ve stumbled upon one which is just that little bit a cut above the rest. Mind, Pinocchio Il Ristorante, on Westgate Road, doesn’t just serve cheap pizzas it has an array of full-priced dishes to tempt you in too – but it was the “specials” menu which caught our eyes.

These “happy hour” meals offer two courses for £5.95. And they aren’t your bog-standard run of the mill dishes either.

Pinocchio is a delight all round, the walls boasting huge colourful murals depicting the famed children’s story of the wooden puppet boy whose nose grows ever longer each time he tells a lie.

The Staff are as colourful as the paintings and we were served by the lovely Nicola and Dominic, who only helped to make our meals all the more enjoyable, with great banter from them.

There is a choice of four starters – potato skins, funghi trifolati, melone con coulis and soup. The skins were not in the slightest bit greasy and came served with a creamy garlic mayonnaise.

The garlic mushrooms on toast (trifolati) oozed flavour. The mushrooms were thinly sliced and cooked in garlic and butter in a non overpowering way and heaped on toasted ciabatta, with the sauce seeping through into the bread, adding delicate flavours to the whole dish, We also ordered the seasonal melon with Fruit coulis, which could not be faulted. There is a choice of six pizzas and six pasta dishes for main course. Any thought of a diet went out the window with me when I opted for the pizza pollo piccante. This turned out to be one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. The blend of chicken and chilli in bucketloads of melted cheese was delicious through and through.

It was just spicy enough to set the buds a-tingling till without forcing me to reach for the water bottle.

The penne alla matriciana was also given the once over. The helping was just right, with a light onion, bacon, garlic and tomato sauce.

Penne carbonara was the third choice though the bacon was swapped in favour of’ mushrooms to accommodate Fusspot’s veggie tastes.

He couldn’t fault the dish. Again, the sauce — egg yolk, parmesan cheese, cream and those mushrooms – though rich, was not in the least bit heavy.

Other dishes we could have had included ham mushroom and pepper pizza mixed seafood tagliatelle good old spaghetti bolognese.

We enjoyed the meal over a bottle of light, crisp Pinot Grigio (£15.95) and the bill came to just over £30 — fantastic value for money for the quality of the meals served up.

If YOU don’t go at “specials” time, there is also the a la carte menu, which also offers a more extensive range of pizza and pasta, as well as fish, chicken and meat dishes.

Pinocchio is friendliness personified with all-round tasty food.

That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth this is one nose which (hopefully) won’t be doing any growing!