I'm going to let you into a secret, I may have had a little help with this review. Heading over to explore the new look of my local Bella Italia and check out the latest menu, I brought along my nephew Charlie for his expert culinary advice. Especially when it comes to pizza and ice cream.
It was a sunny Easter Sunday and we had our pick of the booths in the newly refurbished Leicestershire based Bella. As Charlie is only just getting used to being taken out to restaurants, this was perfect for letting him explore the place without too many eye rolls. Let's be honest, he totally had his eye on that gelato cart. The decor had definitely been modernised; contemporary lighting, bright but muted colours and quirky wooden details. Personally, I really liked it.
After perusing the menu/wearing it as a hat, it was time to try and distract with a little colouring in whilst I picked what I wanted. With so much to choose from, I wanted to avoid the predictable salmon or risotto I'm so often drawn to. I went for the Gamberi starter (£6.45) of king prawns, chilli and garlic butter, whilst my sister Sarah chose the Bruschetta (£4.95) of plum tomatoes, red onion, rocket and garlic.
The starters lived up to their Italian reputation of fresh colours and spot on seasoning. I was seriously impressed by the sheer size and juiciness of the prawns which had been perfectly butterflied.
We both chose quite silly starters for trying to juggle occupying a toddler, but Charlie happily munched down then entire plate of cheesy garlic bread. (Okay I tried a bite - it was good!) 10/10.
Time for mains and I'd chosen something a little different - Sausage Ragu al Forno (£9.95) - whilst little sis went for her favourite Italian dish of Spaghetti Carbonara (£8.95). She's always chosen this at Italian restaurants when we were kids so she's quite the expert. Like mother like son, Charlie went for the Easy Peasy Macaroni Cheesy with ham, peas and animal shaped pasta. Jealous me? Never.
The only problem with Charlie's meal, which seems crazy, is that it came out far too hot. Usually and obviously a good thing in restaurants, this meant that his eager eyes had to wait for his yummy animal pasta. Again he really liked it and made a good go at the portion, which was suited to age 2-6 years.
I really enjoyed my pasta bake, made with sweet pork sausage, conchiglioni shells, hints of fennel and a crunchy cheese topping. Sarah found the carbonara tasty and filling, with the classic combination of smoky bacon and creamy pecorino coming through really well.
Now, it was gelato o' clock. And Charlie wasn't holding back.
Off they went, sweet tooths in tow, and came back with these. I hadn't even realised bubblegum ice cream existed, nor chocolate tagliatelle. However it sounds like the combination of the future and went down very well. Meanwhile, I pretended to be a responsible adult and opted for the Trio of Desserts (3 for £5.25), choosing an Amaretto Chocolate Pot, a Tiramisu Mousse and Banoffee Pie.
Unsurprisingly (as a massive frangipane, marzipan and almond lover) the amaretto was ultimately my favourite. The banoffee was a lot lighter than I expected, with a very pale caramel and delicious fluffy banana cream on top. On the other hand I wasn't as taken by the tiramisu, which was a little bitter and strong for my tastebuds. I could have definitely eaten 3 of the amaretto pots if I'm honest.
Overall, it was a fun, family friendly afternoon with great food offerings. As time went on, around 3-4 other families with children joined the booths to enjoy the latest menu and brilliant choice for kids. Everything was really well labelled, with colourful photographs and age appropriate suggestions - making for really easy choosing. The 3 course menu for littl'uns was £5.45 and £7.95 for bigger kids, with veggie and gluten free options too. Now the suns coming out, that gelato will definitely be on our minds for the summer!
Find your local Bella here and see what takes your fancy!
Note: We were invited for a complimentary meal for purposes of review. All opinions (and Charlie's) are honest and our own.