ITALIAN restaurant Carluccio’s is to close its Oxford branch this weekend – insisting the building is too small.

The company confirmed today it was moving out of its home in Little Clarendon Street, with the doors closing for good on Sunday.

The restaurant will be taken over by a new restaurant –Lussmans Fish & Grill. The new owners have offered positions to Carluccio’s staff, saving their jobs.

Carluccio’s says it is now searching for larger premises in the city in which to launch a more formal-style restaurant. The company – the UK’s largest chain of Italian restaurants – last year began rolling out its new look Fresca restaurants following a successful trial in Richmond, London. The Fresca restaurants feature an expanded menu with less reliance on traditional Italian dishes.

It had previously announced the closure of about 30 branches – around a third of its estate – as part of restructuring. It last year reported it had been just two weeks from folding. The company closed its branch at Oxford Castle 10 years ago.

A Carluccio’s spokesman said: “After careful evaluation, we have taken the difficult but strategic decision to close Carluccio’s Oxford.

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"The current site no long fits within our portfolio as we require larger sites to accommodate our new style of restaurant with updated interiors, different zones and elevated product offer.

"We have assigned our lease to Lussmans Fish & Grill with the team having been offered positions at the new restaurant. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them, along with our customers, for their support and loyalty and hope to able to return to Oxford soon in a larger space.”

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A regular customer at Carluccio’s, Lucy Silver, from north Oxford, said: “It is terribly sad the place is closing. The food has been very hit and miss there lately, though and the place is almost always empty when I have visited. I am very surprised they are going to look for a bigger place when they couldn’t even fill the old one.”

Carluccio’s woes follow losses and closures for Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo, Strada, Giraffe and Pizza Express.