Bella Italia is a well-run operation with reliably high standards in Italian cuisine, its staff and their general approach to the public.
The branch of Bella Italia near Oxford Circus is a busy site, as it is opposite the London Palladium, so it is often quite busy before the show and at lunchtimes on matinee days. In the better weather there are tables and seats outside the restaurant (Argyll Street is mostly pedestrianised), so you have a choice. It’s an attractive place with a personality of its own, slightly old-fashioned in appearance with brown being the predominant colour in the scheme of things.
Although this is part of a restaurant chain, there is none of that corporate feeling that you can get with many brands. It’s a cosy corner and yet quite a large space with a central bar and serving area. You may have to queue on busy days and they don’t take bookings in advance.
This is standard Italian fare but a cut above most chain operations. Ingredients seem to be fresh and dishes arrive cooked to order. For a choice selection of starters, the Assortimento offers several favourites, so that’s the one worth trying here: crisp bruschetta and garlic bread to accompany the delicious cheese fritters, buffalo wings and several dips.
Pizzas and pasta figure large on the menu and are good value at around £5.00 to £9.00, depending on choice. The Four Seasons and the Carne Mista (mixed meat) pizzas are favourites, while in pasta the Rigatoni, Penne and Linguine all have exciting sauces. The salads are full of interest too with the Pollo Cesare coming out tops. This is a huge bowl of salad leaves with focaccia croutons, grana padano cheese and sliced chicken breast: a real and very tasty filler.
Desserts are quite special and for chocolate connoisseurs the Fondente al cioccolato is the one to choose: warm melting chocolate pudding with good old English custard. Brill.
Italian wines, of course, are served here, with bottles from under £12.00 and nothing over £20.00. Virtually the whole wine list is available by the glass from about £3.00.
The Last Word
This branch of Bella Italia is a good, reliable and reasonably priced place for Italian cuisine.