It is always lovely to go out for a meal and even better when it is is free. Last Monday night I was lucky enough to grab two places at Bella Italia’s big free dinner. Ten places for two people were available at Bella Italia restaurants around the country to try out their new menu items. I didn’t expect to be able to book a place so it was a lovely surprise when I did.
Bella Italia Silverlink
We set off for Bella Italia at the Silverlink. It is right next door to the cinema in the retail park so there is plenty of parking available. At the moment there are lots of roadworks going on around the Silverlink so it is a good idea to allow plenty of time to travel. We found Bella Italia easily but it wasn’t clear how to enter. There was a door but it was very stiff to open. At first I thought we were trying the wrong door and almost walked away to find another way in. Luckily the lady inside spotted us trying to get in and indicated it was the right door. After a bit of pushing we made our entrance and were shown to our seats.
While we have been past Bella Italia many times this was our first time on the inside. The atmosphere was welcoming, with subdued lighting. The walls had many quirky features to look at and an array of copper pans hung from the ceiling. It felt rustic with an overtone of modern. The tables were cosy and well spaced out.
Bella’s Big Free Dinner
The Big Free Dinner was a set menu which showcases the new items on the Bella Italia menu. It consisted of three courses, two starters, three mains and three desserts which we shared between us. The service was friendly and efficient without being intrusive.
Our starters were Mozzarella Pizza Bread and Arancini Fungi. The Mozzarella pizza bread was placed enticingly on a wooden board which seems to be in vogue these days. The slices were thin and crispy with a lovely cheesy taste and a hint of garlic and parsley. While not the most exciting starter it was certainly tasty.
The Arancini Fungi was delicious. Consisting of balls of risotto, porcini mushroom and mozarella in breadcrumbs served elegantly in a small wire basket. The presentation was completed with a small bowl of pomodoro dip and a rocket salad. The tomato dip worked well with the mushrooms and the rocket added a nice peppery taste. I would have loved a couple more mushrooms, but as a starter it was the perfect size.
For the main course we had three different bowls of fresh pasta to dip into. The portions were generous. It was hard to decide which to try first but I opted for the Panzerotti Funghi. These pasta parcels are filled with mushroom in a creamy mushroom and spinach sauce with rocket and Granello cheese. The pasta is light and delicious. You can taste the mushrooms in the filling and the sauce acts to bring out their flavour. It is a light and creamy dish which is full of delicate flavour.
The Pollo Robiola was my favourite of the three pasta dishes. These pasta parcels were filled with Robiola cheese and rocket served with chunks of roast chicken in a creamy red pepper sauce. The sweetness of the sauce make a lovely background for the pasta parcels and their savoury taste. The bits of chicken just set the dish off perfectly.
Carbonara is a dish that I often make at home but this variation on the classic uses tagliatelle. The thicker pasta strips work well in the classic carbonara sauce and the strips of crispy pancetta and leeks were the perfect finishing touch. Carbonara is always a filling dish and this was no exception. The sauce was light and not heavy as carbonara can sometimes be.
It is always nice to finish a meal with dessert and these desserts were small works of art in a glass. They were just the right size to eat without feeling that you were stuffing yourself.
On the left is strawberry cannoli made with sweet ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate chips with strawberry coulis and a cannoli biscuit. Cannoli always makes me want to quote the Godfather “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”. In this case I was more than glad to take the cannoli, the balance of sweetness and creaminess was just right.
The centre dish is orange cheese cake which is topped with Cointreau orange sauce. The Cointreau was added using a small pipette which was an unusual touch. The flavours were lovely, bitter orange with the sweetness of the cheesecake made a lovely dessert.
Salted Caramel Chocolate was on the right. Thick chocolate mousse was layered under a salted caramel topping on a Bourbon biscuit crumb base. The flavourings were perfect, the salted caramel making a great contrast to the chocolate mousse.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Big Free Meal at Bella Italia and felt that an effort had been made to impress. It made a lovely change to have a meal out on a Monday night and we would definitely go back there again. The new dishes are lovely and make a great addition to the menu.