If restaurants were as nice as their owners, then Verde on Cowley Road would be Michelin starred.

Beaming manager Marcelo De Oliveira couldn’t be any more welcoming if he tried.

The charming Brazilian is proud, engaging and a born restaurant manager, and Verde is certainly thriving under his positivity.

Sadly, under the present criteria, it’s the food that counts, which is why it breaks my heart to say that our dinner at Verde was slightly under par, not that anyone else in the large, bustling restaurant seemed to mind.

It wasn’t bad, just unremarkable.

But it would explain the mixed reviews I read.

From brilliant to appalling, we didn’t know whether we would be poisoned or sent to heaven by the food at this Cowley Road Italian Pizzeria and Trattoria when we arrived.

Packed to the rafters on a September Friday night, the atmosphere envelops you as soon as you arrive, which would also explain the numerous birthday parties, family outings and general feeling of bonhomie evident throughout.

Having brought a Brazilian and Argentinian for dinner with me, they had lots to talk about with Marcelo, so much so that we were quite late ordering, while well into a lovely bottle of rose.

If, like me, you were wondering what a Brazilian is doing running an Italian, apparently thousands of Italians escaped from Mussolini’s dictatorship to Brazil, so Italian food culture is alive and kicking in South America.

To make things even more confusing, Verde is on the site of previous Brazilian restaurant Carne, which didn’t last long, and had nothing to do with Marcelo.

But back to the food.

We went for a traditional selection of starters, some good calamari (£5.95), caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) (£4.95) and the Giardiniera starter platter of grilled aubergines, courgettes, portobello mushrooms, peppers and artichokes with halloumi cheese (£7.95), all very nice but rather lacking in flavour.

Nothing was shouting out at me, put it that way.

It was the same with the pizza napolitana (£7.55) which arrived without almost any ingredients at all.

A thin dry layer of tomato sauce and a scattering of capers – that was it.

No juicy, oily, garlicky sauce and melting cheese, so it remained untouched, an item of much speculation and a unanimous decision of ‘no grazie’.

The porcini mushroom ravioli with parsley and parmesan sauce (£7.55) was much better.

Home-made, juicy and delicious, I had funghi food envy and ‘helped’ my friend devour her entire portion, much to her irritation.

The lemon chicken special was also a hit, the creamy sauce being really citrussy and tangy without overwhelming the dish.

So, did the pizza hiccup spoil our evening? Not a bit. We had a really entertaining night, finished off with a lovely piece of orange and almond cake and a great latte.

But if you’re going to stick the title ‘pizzeria’ above your door, then maybe a bit more focus on this Italian trademark might be worthwhile.

Verde Pizzeria & Trattoria Italiana is at 212 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1UQ. 01865 246222