Bella Italia is renowned for its delicious re-imaginings of classic Italian dishes.
But with a brand new menu of healthier, lighter bites there is something for those wanting to shift a couple of Christmas pounds.
Observer news editors Lauren Clarke and Beth Sharp went along to the Solihull branch, nestled inside Touchwood, to sample the menu.
Welcomed into the restaurant by a team of staff, we were quickly shown to a window booth and asked if we would like a drink while we waited. What with us both taking part in Dry January, we opted for their new non-alcoholic mocktails. Beth choose the fruity mix of peach purée, cranberry juice and soda dubbed the Peachberry while I opted for a classic Virgin Mary – without the vodka element, of course.
Feeling a little indecisive, we thought a sharing platter would satisfy all our needs. Opting for the Calabrese Antipasto Board, we were not disappointed by the array of southern Italian-inspired charcuteri – piled high with salamis, cured hams, mozarella balls, sundried tomatoes, ciabatta and fresh olives. Savouring every delicious mouthful, it was only when we had wiped the board clean we realised how much food we had eaten – and we hadn’t even got to our main course yet.
Moving on to the main course it dawned on us how many options were available to those looking for a healthy option. With an array of dishes under 300 calories, people observing Weight Watchers or Slimming World rules and those who just fancy a healthier option were spoilt for choice. Unable to decide what we wanted we decided to order a pizza and a pasta dish and share them between us.
Sticking with the healthy theme, we went for a 600 calorie Pollo Pizza Vita – chicken breast, roasted peppers and Granello cheese on a thin wholewheat base topped with lemon dressed baby spinach and rocket. From the crunchy base to the succulent chicken, each bite was simply divine. We also ordered a Gamberoni ‘Spaghetti’ from the new lighter menu. Made from spiralized carrots, golden beetroots and courgettes the ‘fauz pasta’ was a nice change from the sometimes stodgy, bland pasta you often find in large chain restaurants. Also, being made from just vegetables meant the ‘pasta’ had a flavour and crunch of its own which we felt you missed out on when eating normal spaghetti. Topped with chilli and garlic sautéed prawns in a spicy pomodoro sauce, the 259 calorie dish was not only a great dish in its own right, but offered a great contrast to our pizza. We also noted if you just wanted a quick bite which would not leave you overfull or feeling like you needed to go into a food coma this would be a perfect choice on its own. It was just the right size.
We have to admit we were a little naughty when it came to the puddings. Beth chose a Mean Joe gelato sundae; vanilla and strawberry gelato, strawberries, crushed meringue and strawberry sauce topped with whipped cream, chocolate tagliatelle and a wafer curl. Believe us, mouthwatering doesn’t cover it. Typically indecisive, I opted for a trio of shot desserts – choosing sample-sized pots of pannacotta, tiramisu mousse and (my all-time favourite) banoffee pie.
The team of waiters and waitresses were very attentive, friendly and courteous. Despite being in the heart of the busy Touchwood centre, staff did not show signs of being stressed or overworked and helped create a wonderfully friendly atmosphere – helping us roll out the door after gorging ourselves on delicious and (mostly) healthy food.