We’re fans of Pizza in all its wonderful forms (and all Italian food, actually). We like authentic, independent Pizzeria’s as much as we like chains that include Pizza Express. Heck, we’ve even been known to order the odd Dominos on occasion.
So, imagine how delighted we were to discover that Bella Italia in Norwich is absolutely brilliant. We ate there as a family for the second time in four months last week, so impressed were we with our first visit (we visited the Red Lion Street one, though there is one also at Riverside).
The reasons for our delight are multi-fold. For a start, the restaurant is smart, clean and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful on both our visits (despite the restaurant getting quite busy over lunch).
Second, the food is great! Classic Italian dishes such as Pizza, Pasta, Seafood and Antipasto sit alongside grills and burgers, and delicious starters and sides (I adore the Pizza Spirale starter – Twisted Pizza Dough filled with melted mozzarella, oven baked and served with a fiery arrabbiata dip.) The portions are plentiful and the flavours fresh.
Finally, Bella Italia seems extremely family friendly. The staff were lovely to our boys, and the kids are treated to colouring packs, curly branded straws and cordial with fizzy spring water in glass bottles (crucial for all aspiring young Hipsters). There are two versions of the Kids Menu – ‘Piccolo’ for 2-6 year olds, priced at £5.45 and ‘Grande’ for 7-11 year olds, at £7.95. Both options are extremely good value, including 3 courses, drinks (including free refills) and pre-dinner nibbles. But the pièce de résistance (or should that be pezzo forte?) for our boys was the magnificent post-meal Ice Cream offering.
A vintage-style ice-cream cart in the actual restaurant, packed with various indulgent flavours of gelato for them to choose a scoop (or two) from, and then jars and pots of toppings only usually found in children’s dreams the night before Christmas (think candy floss, crushed meringue, chocolate tagliatelle, popping candy). It knocked the usual ‘two-scoops of vanilla’ offering on a set kiddie menu out of the park!
On both visits I had Pizza, which was huge and delicious (barely any room for dessert – we shared a trio of mini ‘Shot Desserts’ on our first visit and abandoned Dessert altogether the second time), while my Other Half had Spezzatino di Manzo (Slow-cooked Beef Stew with Gnocchi Dumplings), and Polpette Americano (Spaghetti with Pork & Beef Meatballs) on our most recent visit. He raved about the Beef Stew, remarking how nice it was to be able to choose something a bit different to Pizza or Pasta. it certainly looked like a lovely, warming Winter dish.
The kids had Pizza Dogs on both occasions – hot dogs with mozzarella and tomato sauce, baked in pizza dough and served with chips and a ‘superstar stick’ (a kebab of cucumber and tomato).
In summary, the food at Bella Italia is tasty, reasonably priced (they also accept Tesco Clubcard vouchers at a last look) and good value for what you get. Experience-wise, it makes a great place to take the family. If you usually go to Pizza Express, try Bella Italia, it’s a potent alternative. I’m certainly a convert and will dine there again (soon, hopefully – just looking at the menu on their website is making me hungry!).
3 Red Lion Street, Norwich, NR1 3QF.
Tel: 01603 614676.
Open 7 days.