Located in Brierley Hill, Il Michelangelo has made it through to the finals of our What’s On Readers’ Awards in each of the past three years.

The restaurant has been trading for nine years and, alongside its extensive a la carte menu, produces daily menus designed to create a truly seasonal dining experience. The restaurant uses local produce wherever possible, imports the finest seasonal Italian ingredients, and employs chefs who’re expert in creating modern takes on classic Italian recipes.

On arrival, my partner and I were politely greeted and taken over to our table, which was situated next to a large painting of Michelangelo himself. With the restaurant packed to its rafters with smiley and contented-looking diners, we felt confident that our debut Il Michelangelo experience would prove to be a positive one.

We perused the menu over a cold pint of Poretti, a pils-style Italian lager, and a garlic bread pizza, topped with mozzarella, from the bread and nibbles section. The latter (which comes as a full-size pizza) was cooked nicely, boasted a generous helping of mozzarella and was certainly a step up from your bog-standard garlic bread and cheese. We were off to a good start.

The a la carte menu boasted starters including: homemade chicken liver pâté served with toasted bread, small pickled cucumbers and homemade apple and walnut chutney; deep-fried squid served with tartare sauce; succulent pork spare ribs cooked in a fruity BBQ sauce; and Italian prosciutto crudo and melon dressed with forest fruit coulis.

I opted for a firm favourite of mine: king prawns in white wine, garlic, butter and chilli, served on toasted ciabatta bread. My partner chose the white crab and mango salad from the daily menu. My selection proved to be absolutely delicious. The prawns were succulent, meaty and large in size, the accompanying sauce - which boasted just the right amount of chilli - was incredibly flavoursome.

My partner’s dish proved to be another winner. The freshness from the crab, rocket and mango offered a welcome contrast to the strong and salty flavour from the prawns. By this point, we understood absolutely why the restaurant had no empty tables remaining…

The main courses are split into sections - risotto, pasta, classic pizza, new world pizza (without tomato sauce), meat and fish. Choosing what to have, as always, was quite the challenge. We settled on the tagliatelle Michelangelo - tagliatelle with spring onions, cherry tomatoes, chicken, crispy bacon, cream and parmesan - and the filetto stroganoff - sliced 28 days-aged prime British fillet of beef cooked with cream, mushrooms, mixed peppers, mustard, brandy and paprika, served with rice.

Forever greedy, we also ordered a side of hand-cut chips and deep-fried courgettes.

I rarely order pasta when dining out, but the tagliatelle was very tasty indeed. The pasta itself was cooked perfectly and a dish I would happily order again. Across the table, my partner was tucking into a stunning mix of (again) perfectly cooked steak, rich, creamy sauce and buttery, fluffy rice. What’s not to love about that? In addition, the chips were cooked nicely and the incredibly moreish deep-fried courgettes were an absolute delight.

You can’t visit an Italian restaurant without trying its tiramisu - so although we were suitably full, we ordered both that and the salted caramel budino - creamy pudding on a thin vanilla sponge topped with a rich sea-salted sticky caramel.

Wow! The tiramisu was certainly up there with the nicest I’ve ever eaten - the amalgamation of creamy, boozy and coffee flavours was truly heavenly.

The budino was just as beautiful in both taste and presentation. If you don’t have a big appetite, then whatever you do, make sure you save room to sample the desserts - they really are phenomenal.

It’s not just the food that makes Il Michelangelo such an enjoyable experience. The friendly and informative staff are a credit to the business and help create a warm atmosphere that perfectly complements the tasty food.

The fabulous manager, Leo, took time out of his busy evening to talk to all his diners - a nice, personal touch and something that is often lacking in restaurants nowadays.

If you enjoy authentic Italian food and drink in relaxed and comfortable surroundings, book a table at Il Michelangelo immediately - you won’t be disappointed.

**** Lauren Foster