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Bella Italia

Gordo wonders what region of Italy burger and fries originate from

Written by . Published on January 8th 2009.


Bella Italia

Chain restaurants. Don't you just love 'em? Well, probably not in the main, although we have got a few that have originated here in Manchester from a small number of worthy individuals and concepts that arrived because people had got tired of the eighties stuff that was still on offer back in the early nineties. Est Est Est had broken the mould, then The Living Room, then Piccolinos and Restaurant Bar and Grill, and finally Grill on the Alley from Blackhouse Grills which arguably sits atop the pile.

Most of the eighties stuff disappeared, with a few still hanging about. Down on Deansgate, there are five or six 'Italian' restaurants, all of which Gordo has visited, apart from Bella Italia, on the corner three doors up from one of the best steak houses in the country, Gaucho Grill. Maybe it used to be Bella Pasta, but it's been there a million years, now part of the Tragus group who, amongst others, own Café Rouge that more often than not delivers a not half bad bit of tuck at the price. There are several million Tragus restaurants in the UK, so what's good old Bella Italia like these days?

Walking into the restaurant, we get a good welcome and refuse the first table offered for a bigger one by the door. This actually is a restaurant that gives you a nice big hug, more Parisian brasserie than Italian trattoria. Lots of copper pans crowding around the pass, dark, polished wooden floorboards and comfy, if slightly small, chairs. The waiters are a charming bunch. The waitress, another day out, more of that later.

The menu is easy, there are sixteen million of them in print across the UK, aimed at people who don't watch any of the plethora of really excellent cookery programs on TV or read the three hundred cookery books which explain the difference between English Italian and the many different styles of real Italian cuisine.

English Italian menus have the following. Antipasti: fried squid; fried, bread-crumbed rounds of cheese; soup of the day. Today, guess what it was? Minestrone. Then the house speciality. Probably asparagus – it was in Bella Italia. It's out of season, but it will be on the menu for a while. The side orders are here to give you a good kicking, the 'baked ciabatta' a mere two English. Then you get meat, bizarrely here including a 'burger Italiano' which, suspiciously, had all the same ingredients as a Burger King. That is, in a bun with mayonnaise, tomato, onions smoked and blue cheese and bacon. With a side order of fries. Then pasta. Then pizzeria.

The reason Gordo was here is the pizzas are apparently, brilliant. So he didn't have one.

Gordo had formaggio frito (£5.25) as a starter. 'Mozzarella, fontina and parmesan cheese, bread crumbed and deep-fried until melted, served with sweet red onion marmelleta'. The red onion marmelleta was ok. The cheese wasn't melted and could have been potty putty. You need to be an old bastard, folks. The rocket salad had been having a smoke round the back and got bored and passed out.

The funghi arrosto (£4.75): 'Mushrooms baked in a creamy mascarpone, spinach and garlic sauce with toasted ciabatta.' It was ok apart from the worrying lack of spinach and one mean slice of bread, slightly toasted that may or may not have been ciabatta.

Main course, pollo alla griglia (£10.50). Oh God, why didn't Gordo stick to a pizza? 'Chargrilled chicken breast (not bad as it happens), with a dolcellati, white wine and cream sauce, served with garlic mushrooms, fries and a rocket and tomato salad'. The sauce looked like the pools of sick outside Lime Bar on a Sunday morning, only paler and with no carrots. It didn't taste much better either. The mushrooms were nice but hadn't seen any garlic and the rocket and tomato salad had been spending too much time round the back of the dustbins with the rocket salad, missing out on the dressing.

The linguine gamberi (£9.25) wasn't offensive. It was bland. The sauce hadn't been reduced enough.

On the way out Gordo bumped into the Confidential chairman.

“Hello Howard, what are you doing here?”

“Getting a take out, Gordo. We quite like it, but you need to stick to the pizzas, they are fantastic.”

Well, gosh. The service is spot on apart from a rather curt waitress who eyed-up Gordo's chip and pin and told him, unceremoniously, that there was a cash machine round the corner. One point knocked off for her. But God paid her back. They forgot to charge Gordo for his three glasses of rather good house wine.

Bella 'let's pretend it's' Italia. Stick to the pizzas.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

terry tibbsJanuary 8th 2009.

am thinking man con needs a facelift. is gettin very dull as this article proves. same old reviews. same old format. same old names postin-evo, emma burns, emma grace, mark m, etc. get a ****in life guys. u really think anyone gives a **** bout your crappy opinion?

Emma BurnsJanuary 8th 2009.

The first section read like one of your articles. As for 'watered down' - I meant 'heavily edited'. He didn't swear once, offend anyone and said 'oh gosh'. 'Oh gosh'? Gordo? I almost choked on my ciabatta when I read that.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2009.

why was the lack of spinach so 'worrying' ? i know it would keep me awake at night

Emma BurnsJanuary 8th 2009.

It's just not the same without the expletives and offense. (I can hardly believe I'm writing that.)

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2009.

that should read this IS the same article. no doubt about it.

mark mJanuary 8th 2009.

How strange. I am sure this article came out last year on ManCon. Why the rerun??

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 8th 2009.

Emma, bless you. But it's Gordo through and through. All his own work. By the way I also appear in various national organs as AA Gill, Giles Coren and Michael Winner. Schizophrenia...I'm in two minds about it. Er...and 'watered down'?

Emma BurnsJanuary 8th 2009.

This article sounds like a watered down version of Gordo. In fact, it's got Schofield written all over it.

mark mJanuary 8th 2009.

In fact, the article came out with the headline 'gordo gets a meal in for under 40quid a head' . November i think

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 8th 2009.

That 'gosh' bit has got me worried now. he over uses 'blimey' but... Maybe he's been reading a lot of Enid Blyton -'Five go Food Reviewing', that sort of thing.

terry tibbsJanuary 8th 2009.

ps love the pix of the sideboard/dresser/waiter station too. we get 2 of them as well! really are just throwing this **** up aren't you?

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2009.

this is the same article that was published last year? what gives. also, why is mancon even wasting it's time at chain places like this when it could be giving deserved coverage to decent newcomers like gio ristorantino on portland street?

Emma BurnsJanuary 8th 2009.

'Offence' even.

Robert PestonJanuary 8th 2009.

There's a credit crunch, Anon. Times are hard. Looks like they are for Confidential an' all.

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