So Chester is a Roman city - the MOST Roman city in the UK. How amazing is that? If you saw the Channel 4 programme Britains most Historic Towns, episode one you would have seen that todays Chester follows exactly the 2000 year old footprint of Deva Victrix, founded in 79AD. There are Roman artefacts and ruins everywhere, large and obvious for all to see, such as the building fragments unearthed in the 19th century and displayed in the Roman Gardens (home to the Chesters Moonlight Flicks - the summer pop-up outdoor cinema) the Roman city walls and the amphitheatre. But have you visited the secret archeological finds hidden in the basements of Pret-a-manger - the huge original Roman pillars still showing the axe marks from when they were carved by slaves all those thousands of years ago, or the original 'hypocaust' (under floor heating to you and me) in the basements of Spud-u-like in Bridge Street and the former Miss Selfridge in Northgate Street.
Then theres the base of a Roman column in a sunken yard between Watergate Street and Weaver Street, the Roman strong room visible down a tiny alleyway next to The Dublin Packet pub, and the Roman quay wall (from when Chester was a port and the city faced out to open sea) that can be seen if you hang over the walls looking out over the famous racecourse.
Chester's Roman history is compelling, there must be a little bit of Roman ancestry still walking the walls of our compact and ancient city, and perhaps that is part of the draw for present day Italians making Chester their home, our very own Little Italy?
So. My Top 5 Italian foodie destinations in Chester:
La Fattoria - Bridge Street - the Chester Institution, exactly what you want from a family run Italian restaurant, big portions, rustic tasty food and Italian staff that talk loud and fast.
Gustum Panini - A gorgeous little panini cafe on the walls at the top of Northgate Street. Amazing flavours, excellent coffee and a warm welcome from Marco.
Stile Napoletano Pizza in the Chester Market - a newcomer and only open 11-4pm Monday - Saturday but so worth the wander for the fabulous pizza washed down with a Moretti.
Gino Gelato - Ok so this is an Irish/Italian Gelato shop, but it is totally delicious. The pistachio is to die for as is the Salted Butter Caramel and the Black Forest Cheesecake. They also make excellent waffles and crepes, but its the gelato that sets my heart racing.
Atina Kitchen - Italian cuisine with a British twist and our local at No.5 - I love this place - the original Marks and Spencers on Foregate Street, its got such a great atmosphere and is just the best place to have a lazy weekend brunch with plenty of buzz and people watching. The food is great and this family run gem is award winning.
Of course there are others - perhaps a part 2 in the pipeline, but for now these are the little independent Romans that are stand out for me. Which is your favourite?
Pizza heaven at Stile Napoletano