We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Woodland style pizza

Now as we start to leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal. 

Back in May 2019 we went out for pizza at Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway. I had the Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella

I did enjoy this pizza and it was very woodland like in appearance and taste. It had a woodland or forest feel to it. I really enjoyed the mushrooms, which had very much a roasted flavour, rather than the insipid soggy texture and flavour you can usually find on some pizzas. The crumbled sausage added texture, saltiness as well as a meaty flavour to the pizza. I liked the fact that this was a ‘white pizza’ so no tomato. I do quite enjoy these kinds of pizza, however one day I will try and make my own ‘white pizza’.

I think this was the first time I had this pizza and enjoyed it so much that on return visits to Bella Italia I ordered it again in July at Cribbs Causeway and also ordered it when I was at a branch at Bella Italia in Leeds, which wasn’t as good as the versions I had earlier.

On my most most recent visit to Bella Italia which was way back in February 2020, just before lockdown, I actually went with a Calzone pizza. I don’t recall if the Funghi Luganica was on the menu or not, having checked the current menu it’s no longer there.

Pizza at The Old Leadworks

Having spent the afternoon in Bristol last November, we had  choice, did we go home and cook, or did we go out and eat first in Bristol. We did venture first to Bella Italia, but it was fully booked. To be honest I wasn’t sure if it was as there was plenty of free tables. However I wasn’t willing to argue with the staff. We didn’t want to spend ages walking around to find somewhere to eat. The challenge was that we needed to find somewhere which had a good choice of gluten free items as well.

I recalled that over by at-Bristol or now as it was called We The Curious in the old Leadworks was a branch of Prezzo. So we decided that we would try there, if unsuccessful we would go home. So we headed towards Prezzo on the Harbourside.

Back in 2000 I actually worked at at-Bristol and my desk was in the offices on the first floor in the old Leadworks. At that time the restaurant was a Firehouse Rotisserie, which sold chicken. I did think about going there a few times, but never did. It was too expensive for lunch and it was somewhere we ever went in the evening either. I am not sure when it became a Prezzo, but it was now a Prezzo.

We were given a lovely warm friendly welcome. I looked over the menu, and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted. In the end I went with the Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and egg.

I have had this pizza a few times before and enjoyed it each time. This time it was just as nice.

There was a lot of pizza but I did manage to finish it.

It was a lovely relaxing meal and we all really enjoyed our food.

Where’s my spinach?

As I was going through some photographs I realised that this meal I had last September wasn’t on the blog. I was up in Leeds  and staying at the Woodlands Hotel. This was a really nice hotel outside Leeds, so plenty of parking, and it was cheaper than a city centre Premier Inn.

I decided to go out to eat. I planned to go to Morley which had an interesting choice of restaurants, however the road there was closed due to an accident. So in the end I went to the Centre 27 Business Park and as I had a voucher, I went to Bella Italia.

I had a warm welcome and though the place was busy I was shown to a table and I looked over the menu. I ordered the Funghi Arrosto  mushroom starter, which was described in the menu as chestnut mushrooms oven-baked with wilted baby spinach leaves in a mascarpone and porcini sauce. Served with toasted ciabatta. It sounded rather nice. However when it arrived didn’t have any spinach.

Funghi Arrosto

When I complained initially I was told the spinach was mixed into the sauce. Knowing that wasn’t the case, the menu had said wilted baby spinach I had to go to the Bella Italia website and find the picture of the dish with the description.

Funghi Arrosto

I complained again, showed the picture and compared it to what I had received, and this time I was taken seriously. The dish was replaced.

This time it looked more like the menu picture, so much better, though I think the ciabatta could have been toasted more, but I was a little tired of complaining and I was hungry. I really shouldn’t have had to complain twice, I shouldn’t have even needed to complain once!

For my mains I had a mushroom pizza, can you tell I was in the mood for mushrooms. I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well, though it was a little overdone to my taste. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

I decided not to have a desert.

I did later complain and got a £20 voucher to spend on a future visit to Bella Italia.

That branch of Bella Italia has now permanently closed.

Time for Lasagne

I was in Prezzo for lunch and I was thinking about pizza, but I felt  I had pizza quite a lot recently, so I started looking over the pasta on the menu. I did think about the carbonara, but in the end chose the lasagne.

It arrived in a very hot dish and looked good.

Lasagne

It tasted okay, if I was going to say anything about it, it was a little bland compared to what I thought it would taste like. I think the Bolognese lacked depth of flavour. However I did enjoy it. Will I have it again? Probably not.

Risotto a la Milanesa

I recently picked up a box of Gallo’s Risotto a la Milanesa, which is risotto with parmesan & saffron.

This is prepared risotto rice to which you only need add water, though you can add butter and parmesan at the end of cooking to add a little bit of luxury and more cheese flavour to the dish.

I usually cook risotto from scratch and I hadn’t really read the box when I picked it up, so thought I was buying plain risotto rice with some saffron included.

What you actually get is a bag of saffron coloured rice which you cook in water for 12 minutes before adding butter and extra cheese.

It’s a really bright yellow, which might put people off, but it was rather tasty. If I can find it again I think I will get another pack. A quick and easy rice dish.

Time for an Italian salad

Fetter Lane

When the weather is hot and sunny and I am working in London, I usually prefer to have a salad for lunch rather than a hot lunch. Near the office there are plenty of places for lunch and lots have a wide choice of salads. I have enjoyed those from the Natural Kitchen where you choose from a selection. Another place I have had salad a few times is the branch of Coco di Mama which is close to the office. They have a wide choice of pasta dishes as well as salads.

I decided to have the Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad. This has crispy speck, bufala mozzarella, mixed Italian beans & quinoa, mango, avocado, pepper pearls, capers, pesto-harissa and pea shoots. It was quick and easy to pay and the service was warm and welcoming.

Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad

It was a really tasty salad, it didn’t overdo the mixed leaves unlike some pre-packed salads I have had from other places. I like the use of mixed Italian beans in the salad which was something I do have at home, but not often seen before. The mango added colour an sweetness, as did the pepper pearls (with a hint of heat).I like pea shoots and these were really nice and added a distinctive flavour to the salad. I wasn’t enamoured with the buffalo mozzarella, and I didn’t think the crispy speck added anything to the salad, I would have preferred to have fresh speck. Having said that, these are minor criticisms, of what was a really tasty salad. Something I would certainly have again. As well as tasty food, they have great service, so a return visit is very likely.

Time for a cheaper pizza

In the past we’ve had some good experiences at the Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway and we’ve had some pretty poor ones too. We have been there a number of times, and they have revamped the places a few times over the years. Now it has a more of an American diner feel to it, rather than the Italian restaurant style it had before.

One of the key reasons we decided to return to eat was that we had a special offer. We used an offer code, so we only paid five pounds for each dish, which made the whole meal very good value for money.

Though we had to wait for a while, we were once our table was ready we were given a warm and friendly welcome and and it was quick and easy to place our order.

I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

unghi Luganica - A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

My son had the Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

This looked great and he said it was fresh and tasty. It was finished off, which doesn’t always happen.

My wife had the fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

However this didn’t look anything like the picture on the menu on the website when we got home, where are the leeks? Having said that she did say the pasta was very tasty.

Service was mixed, our main waiter was warm and friendly, but other staff looked rushed and flustered.

Overall though we had an enjoyable dining experience.

Time for some delicious pasta

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

I seem to be spending more time in London these days, and generally I am only up there for the day. Last month I was there for most of the week so stayed overnight. I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced.

I really liked the look of Paesan close to the Exmouth Market as I walked past on my way to the hotel, and decided that this was certainly a possibility. I also liked the look of the menu at Paesan, simple yet sounding really tasty, as well as authentically Italian.

Inside the plain brick walls, wooden floors and simple furniture gave the place a rustic warm atmosphere. You can see into the kitchen and see what the chefs are doing.

The staff were friendly and welcoming and I was shown to my table and I looked over the menu.

I was tempted by lots of the small plates, particularly the carpaccio or the calamari alla griglia. To be honest I think I could have quite easily ordered all of them, however I wasn’t hugely hungry and I was on a budget.

There was a wide range of pasta on the menu, in the end I ordered the a large portion of the orecchiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa.

orecchiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa

I could see into the kitchen and it was interesting to watch the chef cook my food.

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

The food arrived in good time and looked great. I did expect it to be slightly larger than it was, but glad I didn’t go for the smaller “primi” size (which would be ideal for smaller appetites or lunch).

To be honest this was the best pasta I have had from any restaurant. The fresh pasta was cooked to perfection, al dente, the sauce was just about right.

I finished my meal off with a very Italian espresso, more like a ristretto.

Ristretto coffee

The menu changes quite frequently so I am tempted to go back and try something new.

A different kind of pizza

Bristol has many places to eat and as well as high street chains there are many independent places. Having been invited to dinner the family headed off to one such independent place, the Florence Lounge in Totterdown in Bristol.

It certainly is a popular place with most tables reserved, even though we went to eat in the early evening. It was a hot and sunny day, so they had put most of their tables outside. They don’t have air-conditioning, so on a hot day you will want to sit outside.

I went with the Gamberi pizza. It came with a base covered in homemade tomato sauce, baby spinach, mozzarella, king prawns, silver skin anchovies, roasted asparagus, black olives, lime and rocket.

Gamberi Pizza

I loved how there was a varied selection of toppings on the pizza and the handful of fresh rocket was a nice addition. The prawns were very tasty and I enjoyed the silver skin anchovies. If these had been traditional salted anchovies then I may not have ordered the pizza. The base was cooked well and wasn’t soggy. I have had better bases recently and I felt that it let down the pizza slightly.

Unlike many other restaurants, you order and then pay at the till. The food is then bought to your table.

For those who are gluten free, unlike many pizza places these days, the only gluten free option is gluten free pasta and there is no gluten free pizza available.

Be aware that it is cash only, but there is a free ATM next door in the Tesco. Also it doesn’t have a licence, but you can bring your own alcohol if you want to (again useful having the Tesco next door.