AN ITALIAN restaurant in Southampton has suddenly closed after it was hit by doubling rent prices and rising business rates.

Baffi Pizza, situated near Sainsburys on Portswood Road, Portswood, is now shut after almost three years of serving Neapolitan-style pizzas.

The family-run restaurant opened in August 2017, three years after Barclays Bank - which was previously based in the building - closed.

The pizza specialist company was one of four branches that the Famiglia Di Baffi family ran in the UK, alongside other restaurants that remain open in Canford Cliffs, Southbourne and Poole.

While the restaurant has moved its chefs and manager to its other Baffi branches in Dorset, four front-of-house staff lost their jobs.

Portswood councillor Gordon Cooper said: “Any business closing on Portswood High Street is to be regretted.

“I’m very concerned that the high street remains vibrant and encourage other businesses to apply for trade there, in order to keep it as a place people want to go to.

“We have to think creatively about how to use the high street in the future.”

Director of Baffi Pizza, Harriet Ellis, said: “Portswood Baffi has been our flagship restaurant opening in 2018, and with a strong student following, we were happy and proud to offer more affordable deals for the whole community.

“Following a recent review of the rent, our London-based landlord and their agent requested a huge increase almost doubling the rent.

“After much negotiation to try to agree on a more commercially viable rent, we were unable to reach an agreement and therefore regrettably we were left with no other choice than to close the restaurant - a restaurant that we spent time and money on, and loved transforming from a disused bank to a vital and much loved part of the Portswood community.

“We are incredibly sad to have lost our loyal Portswood customers and even sadder our employees. As a husband and wife team the Famiglia tag line is so much more than the tag line.

“We hope to look for another unit in the Portswood area and reopen soon.”