Review: Bella Italia Exeter
IT'S not often one feels compelled to compare a restaurant to a can of wood stain, but it's got to be done in the case of Exeter's Bella Italia.
That's because this place does exactly what it says on the tin, in the way that other chain restaurants across the country probably wish they were brave enough to do.
Bella Italia more than lives up to a Briton's stereotypical view of what an Italian restaurant should be - delicious smells from the kitchen punch you in the face from the moment you walk in and there is little time to take in the wide array of trinkets, pictures and momentos from the mamaland crammed on to the walls before friendly staff rush over, make you feel welcome and show you to a tiny table for two in a secluded corner of the room.
The Queen Street restaurant was busier than one would perhaps expect for mid-week, but that only added to the atmosphere.
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As for the menu, there certainly wasn't a lack of choice with all the traditional favourites on there.
Having been informed by our waitress that one of the pizzas that was being especially promoted in aid of Red Nose Day had 'made one customer cry' due to its spiciness, we decided to play it safe.
To start we had Pizza Spirale - pizza dough filled with mozzarella and served with a spicy dip - and Polpette - pork and beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce - the latter being particularly tasty.
The vegetables which came with in my friend's main course of seabass were a bit greasy and the dish was not particularly well presented, while the minced lamb in my Agnello Tagliatelle would not be to everyone's taste.
But the virtually-clean plates we were left with suggested these were minor quibbles from an enjoyable evening enhanced by the service, which was attentive without being intrusive.
Too full to take the waiter up on his suggestion we try his favourite - the Molti Strati - we settled for a couple of selections from the ingenius mini dessert section for afters - Ciambelline (doughnuts) and Torta Limone with a coffee, offering up yet more rich flavours to evoke the spirit of Garibaldi, Pavarotti and Baggio.
Bella Italia in Exeter offers a wide range of simple, flavoursome and unashamedly downright Italian food in a relaxed, family atmosphere which appeals to most.
It is a winning combination.