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.

We waited a day…

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, restaurants from the 12th April were allowed to open for outside eating only. To be honest I wasn’t that excited about this, however with my birthday on the 13th we made the decision to go out to eat to celebrate. Last year on my birthday we were in the full lockdown and there was very little we could go and do, so had a lovely celebration at home and we had a fish supper with stir fry. So this year we were thinking could we do something different and could we go out to eat. 

We booked a table at Zizzi at Cabot Circus in Bristol. This is “outside” but is in many ways under some kind of cover as well. So if it did rain, it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on the experience. We did wrap up warm though.

We had a warm if slightly confused welcome from the manager and we were shown to our table.

The paper disposable menus provided a wide choice, but I did quite fancy pizza so I went with the Rustica Primavera which has goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes & super green pesto.

It looked great when it arrived.

Rustica Primavera

I really liked the freshness of the spinach, rocket and fresh pesto on the pizza. Though I like goat’s cheese, I actually think that I might prefer this pizza without it. The dough base was nice, and as it was stretched some areas were thin and cripsy, whilst other parts of the pizza were thick and doughy. I liked the olives and artichokes along with the tomatoes and peppers.

I have had this pizza before, and enjoyed it back then too.

Overall a very tasty pizza.

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.

Time for a Calzone Verdure

Celebrating a birthday we headed for Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway. We had booked in advance, which was a good thing, as the place was busy, buzzing and full of people. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we had to wear masks in the restaurant when we weren’t sitting at the table.

Virtually all the Pizza Express restaurants have their own character, this is certainly the case with the Cribbs Causeway branch. It has a Banksy feel with stencil graffiti on the walls in a Banksy style.

We had a nice warm welcome and were shown to our table. Though we could have looked at the menu online on our phones, we did ask for physical menus.

I ordered a Peroni Libera, Peroni’s non-alcoholic lager, as I was wanting something that wasn’t a soft drink, but as I was driving I didn’t want alcohol. I don’t mind non-alcoholic lagers, however I wasn’t a fan of this one. There was something that wasn’t quite right, and compared to other non-alcoholic lagers I have had it wasn’t as tasty.

For my starter I chose the calamari. These were breaded squid rings served with a Caesar dressing, lemon and parsley. I think I should have remembered my experience from last year. 

I thought it was okay, but I was a little disappointed. 

It was a similar experience this time.

Again I thought it was just okay, but I was a also a little disappointed. The squid was tender, the coating crunchy, but I am not sure it was what I wanted from a dish of calamari. The thing was looking at the other starters there wasn’t much I liked from the menu, so defaulting to the squid.

For my main course I was tempted by the Fiorentina pizza I have had before, but thinking I always have that, lets try something different I did like the sound of the Calzone Verdure. The menu describes this as roasted peppers and aubergine with spinach, smoky tomato harissa, hot chilli, tomato with garlic and topped with rosemary and served with salad and balsamic dressing.

So I decided to go with that.

I really quite liked the calzone. The dough was delicious and tasty. The filling was a lot spicer than I was anticipating, but I think that’s because I didn’t read the description properly and missed the mention of hot chilli. So probably a little too spicy for me, but the filling was very tasty and full of flavour.

What I didn’t realise was that this was a vegan dish, well not that was an issue, this was a very tasty calzone pizza and I really enjoyed it.

Back in time for nice pizza

Working from home, literally every day now, means I rarely go our for lunch. When I was working and travelling away from the office I would go out for dinner and lunch. So there I was working in Bristol back in January, and with a colleague we went out for lunch. I wasn’t sure where we could go, but in the end we chose Bella Vista.

This is an independent Italian restaurant and I have been there for pizza, but usually to takeaway. So I would get a pizza and take I back to the office. This time however we decided to sit in and go for their lunch offer, which was a menu of various choices including pizza and pasta, with a free salad buffet. The staff are friendly and attentive.

I went with the Pizza Vegetarian which came with the following toppings of onions, mushroom, peppers, olives and artichoke.

pizza

It came really quickly and I really enjoyed eating this pizza. It was freshly cooked and tasted great. These are delicious homemade pizza, I’ve enjoyed them before when I had them as takeaway, and I enjoyed it this time too.

There was a wide choice of salads along with garlic bread.

Overall a great place for lunch.

February Funghi Calzone

I never really know if I like a calzone or not. So back in February after a game of bowling we headed off to Bella Italia for a meal. This was pre-lockdown and they had their full menu available.

I looked over the menu and decided that I would try a calzone. I went with the Funghi Calzone.

This was described as a traditional Neapolitan folded pizza filled with chestnut mushrooms, leeks, mozzarella cheese in a mascarpone and porcini sauce.

As with most times I’ve had a calzone, what arrives at the table looks like a large Cornish pasty!

I did quite enjoy the pizza, you could taste the mushroom in the dish and I finished it all. 

The food could have been better

It has been a long time since I have eaten at Zizzi, but the last time I was there I enjoyed my pizza. So meeting up after work in Bristol we headed towards Zizzi to get something to eat.

It was more late afternoon than early evening do when we arrived there was quite a bit of space, when we left the place was full and there was a queue outside.

I don’t think I could quibble with the service, which was warm and friendly, however our food at Zizzi could have been so much better.

Checking the menu, I decided to start with the calamari before then having a Rustica Pinoli Pizza.

The calamari was nice, but they had run out of aioli and though I asked for some mayonnaise they came back with tomato ketchup (seriously) and a separate pepper sauce (which was nice), however neither of these really complemented the calamari in the way that the aioli would have.

We also had some gluten free garlic bread, which was nice and garlicy, however was slightly overdone. I was all ready to complain and ask for a replacement, but I was out voted!

My Rustica Pinoli Pizza had goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, baby slow roast tomatoes, pine nuts & riserva cheese.

I’ve had this before, and though I think it needed more pine nuts, it was rather nice. There is a nice mix of flavours, from the cheese to the caramelised balsamic onions which add to the pizza.

What was interesting was that the other Rustica Pinoli we had on the table was overcooked compared mine. I did offer to swap but this was turned down.

We did the Eat Out scheme so we got 50% off, which wasn’t a bad deal. However the lack of consistency of quality in the food, means I don’t know when I will be going back to Zizzi again.

Homemade Gluten Free Pizza

I have made my own gluten free pizza dough, but I was intrigued when I found the Davina Steel Pizza Base Mix in my local branch of Waitrose. I had tried their Focaccia mix and we had enjoyed eating that.

The process of using the mix is rather interesting in that you stir the mix, with yeast and water, into a batter and then “cook” the bases in a dry frying pan. Basically you spread the batter into the frying pan, cook on the hob, before removing. You then add your tomato base, cheese and toppings, before finishing off in a hot oven.

I was really impressed with the end result, these looked and tasted like pizza. I personally think the bases are better than others we have bought, both mixes and ready made bases.

Eating out (again)

The last time we went out to eat was in March, a week before the lockdown resulted in every restaurant closing their doors.

It was me eldest’s birthday and as a surprise we took him to Prezzo in Bristol. Most of the restaurants in Weston-super-Mare are still closed and we had some surprise guests for him coming from London, so Bristol was a better choice for us.

We had visited this branch in the old Leadworks before back in November, well before all the Covid-19 stuff and had a really nice meal.

This time, we booked in advance, as it was a Thursday, we couldn’t do the Government Eat Out scheme, but that wasn’t really an issue for us. Though from what we heard the day before with the Government Eat Out scheme they were really busy.

The Covid-19 restrictions meant that they had a one way system in the restaurant and they had reduced quite dramatically the number of tables in the restaurant. I think this was slightly exacerbated by the fact we were a party of eight, so putting all the tables together meant that it looked a little more sparse and barren than “normal”.

We were slightly early, but we were given a warm welcome and shown to our table. You can use an online process for ordering food and drinks, but we were given the option of ordering from the waiting staff, which we chose. We did this partly, as I didn’t want to use the phone to order, but also to ensure that when we did order the gluten free dishes we knew we would need that this would be taken down and recorded accurately. It was also nice to interact with a real person. Ordering by phone reminds of the self service tills you find at supermarkets, they have their place, but sometimes you need to or want to interact with a person. I think there is a time and place for self-service or automation, then there is also a time and place for service by a real person. When I go out to eat, it’s not just the food I am going for, but the whole dining experience, which includes service and atmosphere as well as excellent food.

We ordered some drinks, well coffee for me as we waited for the rest of the table to arrive. As we waited I looked over the menu. Prezzo currently have a limited menu, about 50% I think of the old menu, but there was still quite a bit of choice of starters and mains.

I wanted to start off with the calamari, but they had run out, so I went with the hummus instead.

This was rather tasty and there was a nice portion of fresh flatbread to go with it. It was a nice start to the meal.

For my main course I wasn’t sure if I wanted a pizza or something else. In the end I went with a large Mushroom, Spinach and Olives Pizza that came topped with rocket leaves.

Mushroom, Spinach and Olives Pizza

This was a really tasty pizza and I enjoyed eating it. 

It was nice not to be rushed, and we spent quite a bit of time in the restaurant eating and talking. We finished off the meal with some more coffee.