Bella Italia, Leicester Square, London
Three (the phone company, not the number) has been super good to me so far. They treat their customers with occasional free crap and this time it was a meal at Bella Italia. It’s not too much of a stretch to think I wouldn’t have ever visited otherwise. But you know what? Even though it is a homogenous chain, the food at Bella Italia is superb.
It’s not too busy on this weekday afternoon, and it’s a chance for my to take a breather after all those interviews. Nothing beats a quiet venue away from the bustle of Leicsester Square for me to empty my worries and fill my tummy.
One of many
There’s over 90 Bella Italia restaurants across the United Kingdom. The chain is operated by the Casual Dining Group, who also own Las Iguanas and Café Rouge. These are also places Three was dishing out free meals for. The style of cuisine with the usual pizzas and pastas being the focus of the offering. I selected the latter and ordered the Gnocchi pesto verde. The potato dumplings are served in a pesto sauce with chicken, peppers, onion and tomatoes.
I get that guilt you sometimes have when you have something free and feel the need to order something else. It’s a good marketing tactic. It works on me and I’m sure it works elsewhere. My I-was-always-going-to-order-that starter was the aracini funghi. I didn’t care much for the chilli dip, but the aracini is delicious. The breadcrumb coating is mega crisp and the inside is flavourful. The mushrooms are packed and there’s a no feeling that the risotto is too dry.
To the main event
There was some delay for the main course, but all grudges dematerialised as I got my first taste. The pesto is proper and the gnocchi is very good. It carries a perfect, bouncy texture and is super hot. It does taste straight off the pan and this high temperature is reassuring. My only qualm with the dish was the volume of olive oil that pools at the bottom of the plate. The chef could have gone easier on that. Otherwise, yes, I thought the experience at Bella Italia was more than satisfactory. Who says there’s no such thing as a free (good) lunch?