FOOD MONSTER: La Bottega Delitalia- pasta test despite getting off to a bad start
There is absolutely no doubt that Lincoln has experienced a boom in fantastic restaurants as my ever-expanding waistline proves.
Thanks to the sea of terrific eateries, trousers are bursting at the seams while shirts are so tight airflow has become restricted.
It's not been helped by the mountain of pastry baked products which are a cardinal sin in the world of fine dining, but a guilty pleasure nonetheless.
Let's face it, who can resist the alluring smell of a chicken and mushroom bake and the sweet smell of a caramel doughnut.
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But I was reminded this week that not all lunch dates have to be spent looking lovingly at the latest pastry creation from a famous bakery.
Having become a little bored of the same old, same old, I offered to take a very good friend of mine to a wonderful little restaurant that is off the beaten track.
Not many know of La Bottega Delitalia's presence on West Parade so much so that my dining partner looked at me incredulously when I told him where we were heading.
"Never heard of it," he cried.
Now I had to confess that I have eaten here before, but only at night, this was the first time I had headed there for lunch.
So, reminding my pal that he was in safe hands off we popped.
Now, if you judged La Bottega Delitalia by looking through the window, perhaps you may be put off.
Aesthetically, it's not the most pleasing restaurant you will ever visit. But I've been to some of the very best-looking restaurants where mouthfuls of soil have been more appetising. Never judge a book by its cover my dear old dad had told me as I told my dining partner just how good the pasta was.
In terms of price and quality it cannot be beaten and the mouth watered as we perused the board.
King Prawns, chilli and garlic, chicken, salmon, you name it, there were some mesmerising dishes.
But then disaster struck.
The friendly waiter who greeted us gave us the worst possible news.
"Sorry," he said. "The owners are away and we have no pasta dishes."
What? Say that again? No pasta?
What kind of cruel world is this?
For goodness sake, an Italian restaurant without pasta is like Van Gogh without a brush.
Looking as if a six-number lottery ticket had blown away with the wind, we decided to stick it out.
The waiter pointed out that lunchtime Paninis and starters were still available.
As it turned out it was a rather splendid decision.
For the off, we ordered a starter of Anti Pasti which was a delightful mixture of Italian meats such as Parma ham and salami.
It was decorated with gorgeous Italian olives, tomatoes, salad, mozzarella and soaked in a wonderful dressing.
Suffice to say, it didn't take long to devour as our palates threatened to break out into a chorus of Nessun Dorma. It was hard not to be impressed by the volume of food and its presentation.
This was certainly better than a steak bake.
After we had devoured our starter, the mains soon arrived – Paninis.
Mine was full of Italian meats and mozzarella, my pal's was stuffed with goat's cheese, sweet onion chutney and spinach.
As far as Paninis go, it ticked every box you wanted it too.
It was hot for a start, the cheese melted in the mouth, the bread beautiful. For £3.75 is there better value Paninis on offer because if so I would like to see it.
My partner had no complaints and silence during eating time is usually a good sign of enjoyment.
He was subsequently full enough to avoid pudding, but I love a three-course dinner. I finished off with the Tuscan classic, torta della nonna: a custard pie with pine nuts and almonds.
A scoop of Strawberry ice cream accompanied this masterful dessert.
It was all home cooked and it was beautiful. As far as lunches go, this beat a steak bake and a doughnut any day of the week.
If you're looking for quality food at quality prices, then La Bottega Delitalia is a must, even though it has done little to sort out my expanding waistline.