WE set out for a quick sandwich to lighten a drizzly May day and ended up with an all day Italian breakfast featuring a black croissant and a white cold poached egg, and we finished with a smorgasbord of lemon-based desserts.

It was all most unexpected, especially in its location: a former co-op in Middleton St George, which is itself a former ironworks village.

At the heart of the old village, three roads meet to form a triangle, which is known as The Square, and Café Italissimo is in Central Buildings just off this centre.

In recent years, Middleton St George has exploded, the old village now ringed by new estates. It has been a controversial explosion, but at least the growth in population has allowed an unusual business like Café Italissimo to take root near the more customary Indian and pizza places.

It opened about a year ago and during lockdown there always seemed to be a gaggle of people waiting to collect sandwiches.

There is an outdoor seating area, where the co-op delivery horses were once stabled. The weather forecast said Saturday was going to be the driest day of the weekend with only a 20 per cent chance of rain, but the wipers were on intermittent on the journey over and there was only one brave couple outside, all togged up and sitting in the persistent drizzle.

We intended just to have a takeaway sandwich, but as we arrived one of the few tables inside became available.

Everything is authentically Italian, including the bottled water, crisps and soft drinks, and with the constant steamy swooshing of the coffee machine, it sounds authentically Italian, too.

Perhaps too authentically Italian. The menu expects you to know that taleggio is a soft Italian cheese, and that Mortadello is an Italian pork sausage. Amanda Holden, who happily boasted to all Europe on the song contest that she didn’t know what “good morning” was in French, would certainly be in trouble.

The menu starts with a yoghurt pot full of granola and topped with a fig (£4.50), and features an omelette plus sandwiches and salads of ham, cheese, sausage and aubergines enlivened with pine nuts, pistacchios or fizzy pea shoots and served on artisan breads.

On weekend evenings, they seem to do pizzas, too.

Theo, my son, chose a sausage sandwich on fresh focaccia (£6.50). It was a Calabrian sausage, with just a whiff of heat through it. There was chilli jam and a sinewy melting of mozzarella, all sprinkled with plenty of rocket. He enjoyed it, as ever.

Theos Calabrian sausage sandwich

Theo's Calabrian sausage sandwich

Grandma had a chicken and ham sandwich on focaccia (£6.50), which featured large slices of chicken breast and a generous handful of rocket.

I opted for Capo Ghanadi (£7.50). None of my translation apps offered an English version of “Capo Ghanadi” – one of them asked if I meant “capo gonadi” which, it said, meant “chief gonads”, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

The waiter explained that it was an Italian all-day breakfast. Whatever it was, it was truly extraordinary. The main items were four or five different types of artfully arranged Levoni salami – coarse, peppery, smoked etc – with lots of toast, plus tomatoes and rocket along with a cold, poached dome of egg white. The name for this has also defeated my internet searches, but it actually worked well, because it didn’t distract from the salami and it provided some much needed moisture.

The main part of the Capo Ghanadi

The main part of the Capo Ghanadi

The grand dish also came with either a chocolate, pistachio or charcoal “cornetto” – a croissant. I opted for the activated charcoal, which in that faraway place called London is regarded as a health food because the charcoal apparently soaks up toxins in the body.

However, slate black food in the shape of something a dog might leave behind doesn’t really look very appetising, but it left none of the butteriness of a normal croissant on my fingers, and it had an interesting, unsweetened mocca taste to it.

This tied in nicely with the sliver of chocolate tart topped with pistachio nuts that also appeared on my plate. Apparently, all fancy Italians finish their breakfasts with a flourish of continental chocolate (not milky and sugary, like ours). What’s good enough for Milan is certainly good enough for MSG.

A sprinkling of orange viola flowers made an arresting sight next to the black croissant.

It wasn’t a well balanced dish – too many bready items, and I’d replace one of the swirls of salami with a touch of taleggio, now I know what it is – but it was very tasty and utterly, and unexpectedly, memorable.

The café has a chill cabinet full of desserts, many of which are imported from Italy. Theo fancied something lemony, but there was a whole shelf of lemon-related products, and his eye was taken by the cream oozing out of a rum baba.

As he couldn’t make his mind up, the staff, who were wonderfully enthusiastic about their continental cuisine, knocked us up a lemon sharing plate: a lemon tart, with slivers of lemon pie and of Torta della Nonna – Grandmother’s lemon custard pastry topped with pistachio – plus a rum baba and a spoonful of lemon cream.

Our sharing plate of lemon-based desserts and a rum baba at the top

Our sharing plate of lemon-based desserts and a rum baba at the top

The lemon dishes all had a cut-through clean taste while the baba not only oozed cream but wallowed in rummy splendour.

Theo concluded that the Torta della Nonna was his favourite, and his grandma agreed.

We were charged just over £10 for our plate of desserts, taking our total to just over £40, including drinks.

We were superbly treated, and the black of the croissant, the orange of the violas and the yellow of the lemon certainly brought a splash of Italian colour to the grey of our drizzly May day.

Café Italissimo

12 Central Buildings, Middleton St George, DL2 1EF

Tel: 01325 333334

Facebook: café.italissimo

Hours: 8am to 4pm; closed Mondays

Food quality: 8

Ambience: 7

Covid-security: 8

Service: 9

Value for money: 9