This post appeared originally on Gower The Gourmand on the 5th February 2012. It might have got better since then? I have edited it as the whole experience wasn’t a great one, but then I am my own worst critic sometimes.
Bella Italia sits in the heart of Exeter opposite Oggy Oggy on the end of a row of nice eateries and shops at the top of Queen Street in Exeter. It is another chain Italian restaurant which serves a nice range of interesting meals in quirky surroundings. A large group of us decided to choose Bella Italia as the destination for a reunion meal, and this was the outcome.
Strada and ASK have all fed me well in the past and I haven’t felt terrible for parting with my money as they do good food at sensible civilised prices. Strada and Bella Italia are owned by the Tragus Group, (here is a video) who also own Cafe Rouge. However, the value of the meal overall was quite disappointing given my previous experiences with Strada and ASK.
Bella Italia is a new one for me, the food does seem to be a very loose take on Italian. We had a waiter with the Italian accent who was very nice indeed, (swift service especially for a large party like ours), the names of the food was written in Italian and we really felt for about three seconds that we could be in Italy. But the image shattered when the food came.
I ordered the Fritto Misto:
Lightly battered king prawns, cod, calamari and courgettes. Served with fries and a herb, lemon & caper dip
a small bowl of deep fried seafood and some large chips.
It had a lovely lemony herby dip, that didn’t strike me as actually having capers in them, a rather disappointing selection of deep fried oddments and some half cold chips.
The cod pieces were dry, the calamari was chewy but the courgette managed to save this meal despite the fact I only got a few titbits of it. This would be easier to overlook had it been 4.99 but it wasn’t it was 10GBP.
This left me feeling somewhat annoyed, hoping the dessert would be better. It was better, The Cholocate Lava Cake was delightful but still a fiver for, well not much in volume. The taste however, saved the day as it was heavenly.
By the end of it, I did feel that I had finally found a bit of value.
My wife had some sort of pasta dish that mostly consisted of peppers and ccreamy chicken, it was sickly and watery and although there was enough taste to be able to distinguish it, the peppers overpowered the taste of the chicken and the cream.
Bella Italia seems to have high expectations of itself which do not match the end product. If you do go, maybe stick to the staple pizza option or spag bol, and leave the exotic items to the poor fools like us who will then moan to their friends or write strange reviews on sites and blogs. The service was great though, polite and attentive to a large group and generally professional. I shall return one day to see if it has improved, you never know…