Manchester has enjoyed a special relationship with Italian food ever since Antonio Valvona of Ancoats patented the edible ice cream cone in 1902. There’s no shortage of Italian bars and restaurants in Manchester these days. Maria Buonincontro is a woman on a mission to try them all so she got on her Vespa to see what’s on offer on the new menu at Bella Italia…
This is Bella Italia’s 15th year of trading in Manchester. It arrived in Manchester in 2001 with its restaurant on Deansgate, and now has three city centre restaurants, all of which were recently refurbished.
It has been hard at work cultivating a whole new set of authentic Italian producers, many of which are family run, all of whom are passionate about their craft. The result is a new menu that is brimming with flavour. Ingredients sourced directly from Italy include cured meats from the San Vincenzo family from Calabria, (well known for their Nduja spicy salami), primi are made from the famous Agnesi pasta, the oldest pasta maker in Italy, and gelato from Gelateria Callipo of Pizzo, known in Italy as the home of gelato, who have been making it for over 100 years!
I love the idea of having a breakfast with a twist, so what about the revolutionary pizza topped with English breakfast ingredients. That’s bacon, Cumberland pork sausages, tomatoes & mushrooms topped with a fried egg (£8.45). Calm down purists, this is Manchester! Also worth a mention is the affordable one course or two course lunch menu which allows you to lunch properly for little more than the price of a sandwich and a fizzy drink. One course is £6.95, two courses are £8.95, Monday to Friday 11am to 5pm.
Spend the afternoon continental style, meet a friend or a date for an ice cream, a coffee or a dessert and sit by the window in the Deansgate branch and watch the world go by. Or stop for an early evening aperitivo, try one of the sharing boards (mozzarella, cured meats, roasted peppers with ciabatta bread and grissini) and a glass or two of prosecco.
For dinner I recommend the Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi (four cheeses in a basil pesto and topped with pachino tomatoes) and a slow cooked lamb shank in a garlic, red wine and rosemary sauce, served with mashed potatoes and green beans.. And don’t forget to end your dinner with the excellent limoncello and the meloncello Dolce Cilento. Don’t worry if you’re on a diet. Dishes which contain fewer than 300 and 600 calories are clearly labelled. (The succulent primi are less than 300 calories, as are the shot desserts – a shot glass filled with a sweet treat).
Bella Italia serves lots of different flavours of gelato, which is just as it should be. The one which caught my eye was bubble gum flavour. It’s bright blue and, unsurprisingly, it tastes of bubble gum. I hadn’t seen this childhood favourite for decades. It reminds me of the endless afternoons of school holidays, when we would gather at the local gelateria, spending hours sitting on benches soaking up the summer heat and spending our few liras on a big gelato, which always included a big dollop of ‘Smurf’.
So when I saw it sitting triumphantly between chocomint chip and chocotella (yes, it is Nutella flavour!), I had the biggest gelato they have ever served. Surprise your children or your inner child. Smiles are guaranteed.
For a real taste of Italy, or to impress your date, order a gelato and an espresso, to be served at the same time. Then theatrically pour the hot espresso onto the gelato and enjoy this partnership from heaven whilst is still melting and the glances of approval from the passing Italian staff.
You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, a business lunch or evening date in the heart of Manchester in three locations – Piccadilly, the Arndale and Deansgate. It is good value compared to some city centre chains and the portions are generous. A bottle of red or white is £14.75, a big pizza is less than £8 and the lunch menu is cheaper than a latte and a sandwich at some places. So wherever your day takes you, include a stop at Bella Italia. As it says on the menu, “When life gives you lemons, make limoncello.”
0161 832 4332
0161 236 2342
0161 834 2677