If ever there was an ominous name to give an Italian restaurant, it’s Pompeii – a Roman city destroyed by the wrathful Mount Vesuvius volcano. This, of course, was of no concern to the waiter, who was more interested in what I wanted for my starter than a quick lesson in the classics. Slightly disappointed by the apathy of my audience, I stepped down from my soapbox and ordered a minestrone soup followed by a spicy chicken pizza.

The waiter looked relieved and scurried back behind the counter to relay my order. I, meanwhile, looked around Pompeii – at its impressive pizza oven centrepiece, faux-exposed brick feature walls, dark-wood finishing and strange two-tone bench that ran along the far wall. All things considered, the restaurant was rather handsome, and even boasted a couple of oversized replica Roman coins and red-figure pottery (circa 330BC, I noted, as I slurped my Fanta). Meanwhile, the staff appeared keen to please, albeit a tad unsure of themselves, which I put down to the restaurant having just opened. Nonetheless, a bread basket arrived on my table, as did an olive and chilli dip and a complimentary bottle of mineral water (a nice touch).

The minestrone soup, which followed soon after, was piping hot and swimming with onions, celery and carrots, though lacked the beans and pasta that would have lent it more authenticity (and more flavour). About halfway through my bowlful, I realised that I was the only one in the restaurant, so I had the undivided attention of the staff, who watched on tenterhooks every time I lifted the spoon to my lips. It was rather sweet, albeit quite disconcerting.

For all Pompeii’s classical references, make no mistake that it’s an Italian restaurant that veers towards the fast-food end of the spectrum. The menu is illustrated with ‘mouth-watering’ images of the dishes, which is why I was rather disappointed by the appearance of my spicy chicken. It certainly didn’t look unappetising, just nowhere near as appetising as the one I’d been promised in the picture. Yes, I could have ordered a more interesting pasta dish, but the fact remained that Pompeii’s purported speciality is pizza. And while the pizza wasn’t bad, it wasn’t special. The crust was slightly, well, crusty, the toppings could have been more generous, and the spice was disappointingly absent. How Pompeii’s dough-based creations will manage when pitted against other established outlets’ speedy and swift delivery service remains to be seen, but otherwise JLT has benefitted from a perfectly reasonable and affordable Italian restaurant – just don’t expect to have a Vesuvian-style reaction to the offerings on the menu.

The bill (for one)
1x Minestrone soup
1x Large spicy chicken pizza Dhs40
Total (excluding service) Dhs60