Newest Review: ... £1.95 *Lunch (midweek 11am-5pm) - salad and garlic batons to start. Main courses include a selection of pasta and pizza dishes and also bu... more
Excellent Food & Service - Bella Italia, Arndale Centre, Manchester
Bella Italia in General
Member Name: beauty88
Bella Italia in General
Advantages: Excellent quality of food, good prices, fast efficient service
I visited this restaurant last week with my friend. Neither of us live in Manchester but like to meet up there and decided on this particular Sunday to meet for lunch. We wandered round the newer section of the Arndale Centre and came across this restaurant. Neither of us had ever been to any Bella Italia before so were curious about it.
It is located on the upper floor of the new section of the Arndale and is at the far end of the shopping centre not far from the entrance to the Arndale Market. It is very convenient if you are already in the city centre particularly if you are out shopping.
The restaurant is mainly made up of 'outdoor' seating which is in a cordoned off area that literally joins on to the general shopping routes, however you are actually indoors obviously but you know what I mean!! There are also some indoor tables and in addition to this there is a balcony area up above with roughly 6 tables.
We stood at the entrance and didn't have to wait long before a waiter came over and asked how many of us there would be. We were told to choose any table in the outdoor section, which meant the indoor and balcony areas must have been closed. This seemed fair enough as it wasn't particularly busy and meant service would be more efficient. It was nice to have a choice of where to sit too. We sat right near the edge which meant people could literally walk right past out table, but this suited us quite well and the shopping centre wasn't too busy in general anyway. The overall look of the area we were in is quite basic but is what I expected. I would have liked to be seated on the balcony area ideally, but could understand why this wouldn't be open at the time we came in.
The waiter immediately asked us what we would like to drink and we both ordered a coke. He then brought over menus and we started deciding. After just a few minutes the drinks arrived and we were asked if we had decided. We asked for a few more minutes, some might think it was rude to be asked about food that soon but I would prefer this to being left waiting forever! He returned after a further 5 minutes and we were both ready to order.
There wasn't any particular atmosphere to speak of where we were sat as any music playing inside wasn't audible from our table and we were well spaced out from other diners. This didn't bother me with it being a lunchtime meal, however it might have felt a bit impersonal if you were to eat there at night, and I think the indoor area would be better for evening dining.
The menu features a wide variety of Italian dishes including pizzas, pastas, bakes, meat and fish dishes, salads and choice of starters and sides. The menu offered choices for every taste and included a vast choice of vegetarian dishes, which meant the friend I was with, who is vegetarian, had plenty of choice. The menus are a large sheet of card and typical of other chain restaurants like Pizza Hut etc but it was colourful, appealing, well laid out and the dishes were described very well.
We both ordered the same main course which was the 'Rigatoni alla Norma' which was described as: "Wholewheat rigatoni, roasted aubergines and garlic in a cherry tomato sauce, with fresh basil and baby mozzarella."
The food arrived surprisingly quickly and it looked great and was a really generous portion with plenty of pasta. The meal was nice and hot and the pasta was well cooked. The sauce was delicious and actually much better than I expected. I was worried it might be slightly bland, however it was rich and full of flavour. I could also detect the garlic but without it being overpowering.
The sauce was the right consistency, not too thick but also not watery, and it stuck to the pasta well. There was plenty of sauce which was nice as there's nothing worse than dry pasta with a measly bit of sauce! There were plenty of aubergines in the dish and they suited the dish really well. I wouldn't have thought of having aubergines in a pasta dish like this before, however it worked very well. The aubergines were cooked and well and had absorbed all of the flavours in the dish.
The mozzarella had been chopped and scattered onto the pasta when serving and was a really nice touch to add to the dish. I would have preferred more mozzarella, however for other diners it probably would have been considered enough. Overall the meal was of an excellent standard and there was nothing processed or fake about it, and I could definitely tell it hadn't been re-heated.
I initially expected to struggle to finish all of the pasta, however managed to eat all of it as it was just too good to leave. However I was very full afterwards and would say that the portion should satisfy most appetites.
Despite being quite full we both decided to order dessert too. There was a nice variety of options for dessert and in the end I decided on 'Torta Limone' which was described as: "Lemon sponge layered with lemon cheesecake and zesty lemon custard, with a pot of fresh cream" and my friend ordered the 'Cookie Dough Lava Cake' which was described as: "Moist chocolate chip cookie cake with a melting chocolate middle, served warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce"
As with the main meals, the desserts arrived in very good time and looked just like the pictures on the menu. The only thing lacking in my dessert was the pot of fresh cream, which turned out to be a squirt of whipped cream on the plate...but this didn't bother me particularly. Other than that the dessert was excellent, the lemon cheesecake was fresh, light and chilled, and the lemon custard was indeed zesty, as described. The slice I got was generous and ended up leaving some of it as it was just too much, but rather that than not have enough! I also tried my friends' dessert which comprised warm cookie dough with melted chocolate in the middle. Again this was really lovely and tasted nice and fresh.
Prior to the visit I had always assumed that the food in Bella Italia would be a bit disappointing, as it is a chain and often things taste a bit mass produced and lack personality when eating in chain restaurants. However the meals we had were on a par with most privately owned Italian restaurants I have eaten at, and was also much cheaper.
The main meals cost £7.50 each and the deserts were £4.95. All the food was excellent so we were happy to pay these amounts, however I felt the dessert prices were slightly too much. But the main meal price in my opinion was very reasonable, especially considering the quality of food. The bill was given to us shortly after finishing the desserts, and we didn't actually ask for it. I would probably consider this rude if I was dining at a restaurant in the evening, however I didn't really bother me on this occasion as it was a casual lunch.
We had the same waiter throughout our time there, who actually appeared to be the only waiter on duty. He handled everything very well and was very polite and professional, and didn't seem troubled by anything we asked or the fact that we wanted longer to look at the menu etc. We received all the treatment one would expect from a visit to a restaurant and were asked if our food was ok a few minutes after starting to eat, which is a nice touch.
We didn't need to ask anything out of the ordinary and didn't need to complain so cannot comment on how he would have handled these situations.
The furniture and floor in the restaurant area looked very clean, as were all glasses, cutlery and plates we used. This made me trust the kitchen and trust that the food was being prepared in a clean surrounding. We didn't use the toilet facilities so can't comment on these.
Overall I would definitely return to this restaurant and would be very curious to try more options on the menu. We experienced good efficient service and excellent quality food which was on a par with none-chain Italian restaurants I have eaten at. I don't have any children however think this restaurant would be very accommodating and well suited to families and that children would easily find food choices on the menu to suit them.