A popular city centre Italian restaurant will be closed “for the foreseeable future” following a fire.

Up to 40 firefighters were needed to tackle the blaze at Pinocchio in New Road, Brighton, on Saturday night.

Diners had to be evacuated after the fire broke out in the kitchen on the ground floor.

The fire damaged the kitchen and parts of the basement and roof although the exact source of the blaze is not yet known.

A message posted on the restaurant's Facebook page said: “We had a major fire last night which has caused severe damage to the restaurant.

“Fortunately everyone got out safely with no injuries.

“We are assessing the damage but we will not be open for the foreseeable future”

The restaurant, billed as the oldest Italian restaurant and pizzeria in the city, is set across two floors and is popular with theatregoers.

Sue Addis, who owns both Pinocchio and Donatello in The Lanes, said: “Obviously we are devastated by what has happened but at the end of the day the most important thing is that nobody was hurt or injured.

“The restaurant was not as busy as it would normally be because of the bad weather so we were able to move our customers over to Donatello.

“I'd like to thank the fire brigade for all of their efforts in dealing with the fire.

“Obviously our main focus now is to get the restaurant open again as soon as possible.

“It is still too early to establish exactly how much damage has been done but we will have a better idea later in the week.

“We are asking people who had bookings with us to contact Donatello and we will try to offer them an alternative.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “Ten fire appliances, including the aerial ladder platform, were called to deal with the fire.

“It was a tricky one to deal with at the flames had got into the wall cavities and the ducts.”

Crews had put the fire out after more than three hours but stayed at the scene until around 12.40am.

Firefighters returned at 6am yesterday to make sure the building was safe.

The fire is believed to have started accidentally. The cost of the damage has not been calculated.