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Bella Italia (Restaurant)

Picture of Bella Italia in Soho, London

61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London, W1D 6LQ
Cuisine: Italian
Tel: 020 7494 0288 | Email to Bella Italia | Transport: Leicester Square | Write review

Bella Italia Review

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This review is fairly simple. The Shaftesbury Avenue branch of the ubiquitous Bella Italia basically caters for one type of person: any visitor from beyond the reaches of Zone 4 who knows little about the rich soup of Central London eateries available at their disposal. For anyone who goes about their daily business with an Oyster card in their back pocket, however, it’s unlikely to produce any more than a muted “Pfffft.”

This can be explained very simply. This restaurant is in the theatre belt and, as such, repeat visits are probably not essential to keep it running. This is mostly a one-time deal for customers, many of whom will continue the evening after their meal in the company of a drag-dressed Michael Ball singing “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”. Therefore, style over substance is never really going to be the name of the game in terms of food.

In terms of the aesthetics of the restaurant, however, style is something it has in spades: the wicker chairs, the tiny tables, the Art Deco-ness, the al fresco indoor terraces, the brickwork-painted brickwork (that’s brickwork painted on top of brickwork), the hunks of parmesan shaved at tableside, the frescos, the Italian maps, the retro propaganda, the Venetian landscape paintings. This is the theatre belt after all and so an element of camp ostentation is practically the law. It still manages to feel cosy, however, with an independent air that’s less like a restaurant chain and more like a Mediterranean family gathering. All that’s missing is piercing sunshine and a rotund tenor wandering the tables singing sweet, mellifluous arias to the diners. Meaning, you never feel pressed to pay up and get out the door.

Sadly, though, the view is hardly Venetian. Nor is it Roman. But it is a great vantage point for freak watching. A lot can happen up and down the length of Shaftesbury Avenue. One can be off in a hammy singalong daydream about a spoonful of sugar making the medicine go down whilst staring out of the window at a young emo-goth passerby who has his eye on a beautiful young woman across the street who herself is starring, longingly, at a baby in a pushchair being guided by a hungry mother who is ironically peering back through the window of Bella Italia at your Insalata di Gamberi. It’s easy for your attention to be diverted from your food in this neighbourhood; and unfortunately, that’s sometimes a good thing.

Although the atmosphere does help to remove you from the drag of the main drag, the pasta is regrettably unsatisfactory. The pasta menu is the culinary equivalent of escorting Monica Bellucci and her beautiful sisters to an evening event somewhere in town, only to find on arrival that it’s the annual general meeting of the Institute of Chartered Accounts, before then getting caught in a conversation about “proposals for a 'three-tier' UK GAAP converged with IFRS”, whilst Monica and her sisters are nowhere to be seen. Basically, it shows much promise but ultimately ends in bland disappointment. If it’s the pasta, that is.

Firstly, the option to swap to a wholegrain variety should result in the delivery of something that bears similarities to the colour brown, not grey. Secondly, al dente does not mean sloppy. Thirdly, ‘reheated’ and ‘defrosted’ are descriptions best kept for dinner at home. Therefore, the Fusilli Pollo Spinaci and the Penne Zafferano are as average as a English summer, in that they don’t overpower but never even threaten to. This is indicative of the Brit’s willingness to absorb American corruptions of European cuisine. If the Italians knew their name was being put to this flavourless concoction, they’d be some serious shrugging going on.

Thankfully, the menu is very varied meaning the Carne Mista pizza on the neighbouring table is a much wiser decision. As is the Controfiletto ai Ferri sirloin steak order over yonder. Lesson learned there.

The starters are a bit of a Wednesday afternoon - just OK - with the garlicky cheese sauce of the Funghi Arrosto usurping the meek mushroom it lies upon. The desserts, however, are very decent; the classic Tirimasu and Banoffee Italiano killing off all bad memories of previous pasta. And great with a decent cup of coffee, too.

In summary: consider the starters, avoid the pasta, and always, always, get dessert and coffee.

It’s fair to say that the Shaftesbury Avenue branch of Bella Italia has all the right ingredients: facsimile Italian atmosphere, a decor of escapism, passionate attendance, American-sized portioning, eye candy prices, convenient location. It has it all, but in a league table with Zizzi, Bella Pasta and Pizza Express, its pasta dishes are very Accrington Stanley.
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Customer Reviews for Bella Italia

Average (based on 1 votes): 1 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Bella Italia.

“A small haven on the busy Shaftesbury Avenue with some typical decor to take you to Italy. Serving are very large so don't go for the three courses and the pizzas look much better than my pasta tasted. Desserts are great.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Bronwen Stephens, London (8 years 8 days ago)

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Additional Information

Bella Italia Food & Drinks

Special offers, discounts and deals at Bella Italia

Book this special offer now - fast, free and confirmed!

New Years Eve Menu 3 courses plus prosecco £24.99

Type: Christmas, Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Eat out from £10 to £20, Lunch Special Offer

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Christmas Classico Menu 2 courses £17.99 3 courses £19.99

Type: Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Eat out from £10 to £20, Lunch Special Offer

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Christmas Festa Menu 3 courses plus prosecco £25.99

Type: Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Eat out from £10 to £20, Lunch Special Offer

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Christmas Day 3 courses plus prosecco on arrival £35.99

Type: Christmas, Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Lunch Special Offer

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Early Bird offer up to 20% off food Christmas Classico Menu 2 courses £17.99 3 courses £19.99

Type: Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Halloween, Lunch, Up to 30% off Special Offer

Book this special offer now - fast, free and confirmed!

Early Bird Offer up to 20% off food Christmas Festa Menu 3 courses plus prosecco £25.99.

Type: Dinner, Easy Pre-Order, Halloween, Lunch, Up to 30% off Special Offer

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Venue ID: 19856

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"Fantastic restaurant we eat there 4 times while staying in London on a quick trip, absolutely top quility - staff absolutely obliging - we'll be back??." Which venue is this?

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"Fantastic restaurant we eat there 4 times while staying in London on a quick trip, absolutely top quility - staff absolutely obliging - we'll be back??." Which venue is this?

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