WHEN it comes to dining out, atmosphere is just as important as the quality of the food.

A tempting menu might get you through the door but it is how relaxed you feel and how much you enjoy the experience which will determine whether you come back or recommend the restaurant.

That is why the family-run Delgados is so popular despite being tucked away in Penketh's Honiton Way shopping precinct.

The Italian restaurant seemed to be as much of a community hub as it was a dining spot on the Thursday night we visited with a family with young kids eating alongside tables of couples and friends.

Julie Nunney, who runs Delgados with her partner and head chef Robert, seemed to know everyone well and the warm welcome and friendly atmosphere instantly made us feel at ease.

She was also the perfect host who spoke enthusiastically about the dishes on offer and was happy to give recommendations.

That was when she was not complimenting or teasing us on our Italian pronunciation skills. It felt a world away from the run-of-the-mill experience you often get at chain restaurants.

The food itself left an equally good impression.

To start, I had the fungi al fredo, which was sautéed garlic mushrooms baked in a cheese sauce and topped with mozzarella.

Rich and satisfying without being overpowering, it really got me in the mood for the rest of the meal.

The portion size was a little small but proved appropriate considering the feast to come.

My partner Sarah had the bruschetta which was rubbed with garlic and topped with tomato, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

She particularly enjoyed how fresh it tasted and how well the flavours complemented each other.

For my main course, I felt like a wise guy while tucking in to the 'meat maffioso' pizza stacked with crispy bacon, ham, chorizo and spicy pepperoni.

A must for meat lovers, the pizza was large and generously topped and the stone-baked base tasted really fresh and doughy.

Sarah, a vegetarian, on the other hand was impressed by the number of meat-free dishes and opted for a calzone pizza with sautéed mushrooms, sweetcorn and peppers in a garlic and herb tomato sauce.

She was pleased with the portion size and that the pizza was not dominated by cheese.

It is worth leaving space a sweet because they are hard to resist.

I found the lemon zabaglione, an ice cream topped with lemon sherbet and with a gooey lemon centre, to be a delicious and refreshing end to the meal.

Meanwhile Sarah had the brilliantly named 'tirabockermisu', a fusion of two classics, tiramisu and knickerbocker glory.

This was her favourite part of the meal which had a strong coffee flavour to balance the overall sweetness of the dessert.

Starters from...£4.25

Mains from...£7.25

Desserts from...£3.45

Call 790000 or visit delgadospizzeria.co.uk