Aqua Italia, the premium Italian restaurant chain, has said it is embarking on an “exciting year” with plans to open two to three new sites.

The six-strong company, which includes Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema as an investing director, has lined up its seventh site in Worthing.

MCA understands that the group has secured the former JD Wetherspoon pub, the Sir Timothy Shelley, in the town’s Chapel Road for an opening later this summer.

At the end of last year, the company made its debut in the south east with an opening in Lewes. It secured a unit in the Premier Inn-anchored development in the town.

The group had previously lined up a site in Oxford’s Summertown, but has yet to give further details of the restaurant and bar.

The company currently operates sites in Bristol, Bath, Portishead and Milton Keynes.

The latter site was launched in 2013 as a new generation site and as a test bed for further expansion into other areas around the country.

The company was launched in 2010 by husband and wife team Richard Smithson and Emelia Schiavetta.