Katherine MacAlister believes people will appreciate a family friendly restaurant on the site of a former town pub

The highlight? Watching my little girl’s face as the Italian staff, including the chefs, came out to sing her happy birthday in Italian.

The birthday cake might have been slightly unusual, in the form of a flaming prawn and walnut pizza, but I’m not one to split hairs. It was the perfect site for her birthday, my little pizza queen.

Where were we? Piccolo Amore, the new boy in town in the centre of Bicester on the site of the former Six Bells pub. Piccolo Amore means ‘little love’ and has been opened by Mauro Braiotta from Calabria in Italy who has spent a life in catering and decided to finally branch out on his own.

He has been looking for the right site for years and jumped at the chance of opening up on Church Street. The listed building was a tricky one to navigate with the planners, but everything is up and running.

Alongside partner and brother-in-law Jaun Louro, and chefs straight from Italy, Piccolo Amore may be battling against Pizza Express up the road, but with Bicester crying out for good independent restaurants, they hope there are enough customers to go around.

You can tell it used to be a pub when you go in, despite the refurbishment – it has that two room mentality – and is fairly sparse decor wise, with the kitchens accessible through the open hatch at the back.

But the welcome is warm, and as all Italians are, they were great with the kids, cracking jokes and playing magic tricks.

With the emphasis on the ‘dessert,’ we dived straight into the mains. Starters are not for parents unless they are deluded, oblivious speed eaters.

There were quite a few of us but we did try a wide range of main courses from the fresh gnocchi in tomato, mozzarella and basil (£6.45) which was a generous portion of homemade, soft, plump and lovely chewy gnocchi although the grill had dried out the top few and more sauce would have been good.

The pasta alla Genovese with pesto sauce (£6.50) was another big hit, delicious silky pasta shapes with a vibrant basil sauce, and the pizzas disappeared in no time, the £7.50 calabrese (tomato and Italian spicy salami) and £6 margherita, (mozzarella, tomato and oregano) being consumed indecently fast.

The spaghetti bolognese (£7.80) came with a minced beef, tomato and red wine ragu but the lasagne was less of a success. There were so many layers of pasta that the mince/cheese levels were rather lacking, rendering it far too dry.

And then came the grand finale – the famous flaming Pizza Piccolo Amore Flambe, a Calabrese speciality apparently, that obvious mix of pizza base, mozzarella, walnuts, prawns, and drambuie liquer which burns out in front of you. My daughter was delighted.

By the time we’d sung, eaten and flambeed, it was late and we had to get them all home to bed. It was a school night. Piccolo Amore will suit Bicester well. It’s a family-run friendly business serving good, generous and well priced food. What more can you ask for?

Piccolo Amore, 7 Church Street, Bicester
01869 389069 piccoloamore.co.uk