Restaurant review: Bella ItaliaBy Alan Bunce
November 14, 2012
Ever since the pubs, bars and anything that wasn’t a restaurant dissapeared from the Riverside at The Oracle the level of competition between the different eateries has intensified.
There are more alternatives than ever to chose from so none can be complacent.
We visited Bella Italia at 6.15pm on a Thursday, the early start allowing a good choice of table. It also means the atmosphere builds as the evening goes on.
The restaurant has four main areas, a bit like rooms in a house, and a long bar area. This format means a high proportion of tables are against a wall and those are the ones which people seem to gravitate towards.
The waiter assigned to us, Zen, was additional entertainment for our evening. He helped us both through the menu before explaining my choice of Zuppa del Giorno or soup of the day, (£3.95), was to be minestrone, only to come back mortified and apologetic that he had told me wrong and that it was in fact watercress and spinach.
He needn’t have apologised – the soup was a delight, both for texture and flavour, and served with ciabatta.
My guest’s starter Antipasto Misto (£6.25) was available either as a platter for one or for two to share. It was also, she tells me, a lovely mixture; the meats very fresh and the buffalo bocconcini mozzarella tasty.
While she went for an authentically Italian main course of Tagliatelle di Campagna (£9.95), I had the basic and un-Italian Burger Americano (£9.50).
The fresh egg tagliatelle had chunks of slow-cooked beef, sautéed mushrooms and garlic coated in a mustard sauce.
‘Absolutely packed with flavour’ was the verdict and the sauce ‘lush’.
My burger had a great deal more than just a chargrilled piece of meat. It was packed with all the things you’d expect; baby gem leaves, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise and with extra bacon, in ciabatta bread alongside a decent pot of very nice chips – this was a meal which did what it said on the tin.
It’s an old favourite, and clearly not an Italian delicacy, but a useful meal to compare with similar dishes at other restaurants – an unpretentious, large-size burger and absolutely what I wanted. At some restaurants the tendency is to stack a burger so high that eating it becomes almost impractical.
Something of a best kept secret at Bella Italia is the range of desserts. Many restaurants, including a number of the neighbours along the Riverside, have very basic and almost identical dessert menus.
But here there is a serious effort to make your third course worthwhile.
Zen recommended the Molti Strati (£5.25), promoting its combination of flavours. It’s a slice of white chocolate mousse with a caramelised orange glaze on top and a chocolate crumble base. It was a quality choice and Zen’s description of a mix of flavours was spot on. I was happy with it until I tried a bit of the Semi Freddo (£5.25) my guest had chosen.
A mild coffee flavour in a soft mousse is a rare pleasure, but there was more to it. Its description: ‘Semi-frozen iced cappuccino and mascarpone mousse with a hidden vanilla macaroon, served with Italian lingue di gatto biscuits’ still does not get across how well this works.
The sweet biscuits alone are a treat. In the words of my guest, ‘Anyone who loves coffee will love this’. I’d like to have tried more of the 15 desserts advertised but we were both thoroughly full by the end.
It’s sometimes hard to choose a Riverside restaurant two people agree on but since the choices here are varied and food a good quality this is somewhere I will definitely select again.
- Telephone: 0118 956 6963
- Website: www.bellaitalia.co.uk
- Address: Bella Italia
The Oracle Riverside