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Donatello: Where Tradition Meets Trends

Donatello has been serving food in Brighton since before I was born. That’s not because I’m a bambino though – it’s just been impressing Brighton with its Italian fare for an impressively long time. What was founded as a 100-seater restaurant almost 40 years ago can now seat 300 people, and yet, the traditional family-first values are still at the heart of this local restaurant. Pair that with the central location and the vibrant outdoor seating areas, and you’ve got a trendy, community-driven hubspot.  

exterior shot of the Donatello restaurant on a sunny day. Summer dining at Donatello

Donatello – Brighton Trend Setters 

Nowadays, you don’t have to look too far to find a set menu in Brighton, or any foodie city really. I’d go as far as to argue it is now a staple of modern dining. However, when Sardinian-born Pietro Addis launched the “new concept” of two-course and three-course set menus in Brighton in 1991, it was considered a novel concept. We went down to try out two courses and a glass of wine in the sunshine and can confirm that the £14.95 price tag is a steal given the overall quality and ambience.  

Dining Alfresco In The Heart of The Lanes

I’m going to take the optimist’s approach and say this is going to be the kind of Summer where you’ll need the location of every local sun trap. With easy access from the lanes, the beach and the pier, consider Donatello’s a top option for sunlit dining this Summer, a glass of wine, or a spritz, in hand and sunglasses on. The bright, leafy atmosphere both inside and out is perfect for people-watching, might I add. Very generous portions of delicious food mean you’ll be able to keep things simultaneously unpretentious and elegant.  

shot through window showing people al fresco dining at Donatello. Summer dining at Donatello

Gorgeous For Groups

As I mentioned previously, the restaurant can seat 300 people. So, it probably goes without saying this is a great spot to meet with a group – there was even a wedding party arriving when we were on our way out. I don’t have kids, but I’m friends with enough parents to know that it can be hard to find somewhere that is family-friendly but also has great adult food. Of course, as someone without kids, I also don’t really want to go to a restaurant that feels like a playground. Donatello has found the balance. They welcome children and are well-equipped with both ample space and a bambino menu, but it is suitable for everyone to have a fun time with good food and drink.  

Getting Started  

To start, we ordered the Insalata Caprese and the Funghi Trifolati. On a hot day, you can’t go wrong with a Caprese salad – especially when you’re getting served fresh, flavourful cherry tomatoes topped with rich and creamy buffalo mozzarella. Both the colours of Italy’s flag and the spirit of Italian food culture was captured by the simplicity and quality of this dish. 

over head shot of Insalata Caprese and the Funghi Trifolati served on white plates and with glass of white wine at Donatello

The Funghi Trifolati dish was another simple but massively effective choice in terms of the flavours coming through. We devoured the mushrooms that had soaked up every morsel of butter, garlic, parsley and olive oil in which they’d been cooked. They had been topped with freshly cracked black pepper by one of the many friendly faces keeping Donatello running so seamlessly and our appetites were suitably piqued for the mains to follow.  

The Main Event  

With the set, you can choose any pizza or pasta dish from the main menu. After a healthy portion of deliberation, we settled on the Petto di Pollo Milanese, and the Donatello pizza (I’m very partial to ordering a restaurant’s namesake – it seems only fair).  

Petto di Pollo Milanese and Donatello pizza served on white plates on  the outside table of Donatello restaurant. Summer dining at Donatello

The Milanese was the star dish for me: a perfectly seasoned, crispy chicken breast complimented by spaghetti pomodoro. With a pasta dish this simple, quality is essential. The savoury parmesan was applied liberally and balanced the dish which was jam-packed with sweet, juicy tomatoes.  

Petto di Pollo Milanese

The Donatello pizza had a lot going on: sausage, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, prawns, peppers and anchovies. I was concerned that it would be overpowering – anchovies don’t famously share a stage, they’re more of a prima donna. Yet, it all blended really well without any one flavour being too dominant. The tomato base, which presumably is made with the same high-quality pomodoros as the pasta sauce, is rich and comforting, giving a sturdy foundation on which the other ingredients can work their magic.  

donatello pizza covered with sausage, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, prawns, peppers and anchovies

But Before We Go… 

A strong shot of espresso after dining Italian-style is key for digestion, but it’s also just to provide a satisfying end to the meal. It provided the perfect full stop at the end of a lovely, long lunch in the sun.  

two espresso coffees

There’s an option to order dessert as part of the three-course menu and, while this wasn’t on the cards for this trip, I will be returning to suss out the vanilla and pistachio ice cream served with nougat, chocolate sauce and whipped cream… for obvious reasons.  

It’s your turn now – Buon Appetito! 

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Opening Hours

Monday 11:30am10:30pm

Tuesday 11:30am10:30pm

Wednesday 11:30am10:30pm

Thursday 11:30am10:30pm

Friday 11:30am10:30pm

Saturday 11:30am10:30pm

Sunday 11:30am10:30pm