Norfolk, Restaurants and Cafes

Please Stand Up – Bella Italia

I don’t think I’ve written a negative blog post review so far, and this day wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed time spent with great friends and we had a laugh.

Bella Italia Bar

I used to be a regular diner at Bella Italia Norwich Red Lion Street until a couple of Christmases ago and an awful works do. Long story short food was late, some never coming at all, I was told avocados are supposed to be brown ‘that’s what happens’ (yes only when they’ve been sitting around for a while unpeeled!). We were seated at a table right at the far end of the restaurant with an obstacle course of diners for me to interrupt and chairs to push in, even after me confirming with them twice that I needed an easily accessible table for my wheelchair.

Gelato
 

Anyway that’s in the past and I don’t hold grudges (for long anyway!), so decided to revist for lunch with friends this week. What better time to make ammends than when you’ve got a 50% off deal (these smart phones have some smart apps).

I’m glad I had this 50% off as in a small way it compensates my experience. Just a tiny bit. 

We arrived and I was kindly asked if I would like to stay in my wheelchair or sit on a regular seat. Now I know some wheelchair users can walk/transfer but I am not one of them. I realise why he asked though as there was hardly any space anywhere in the whole restaurant for a wheelchair! Even the toilet which you can read about here… but let’s continue for now.

Shown to our table I had to ask for another diner to move mid meal to let me through. Now he seemed willing enough and didn’t appear annoyed, however this is not the point. He is enjoying his experience and his food (maybe), and I feel rude interrupting him. It’s not his fault he sat where he did, he didn’t know I was coming, and he didn’t design the poorly thought out seating plan. He’s just having lunch!

The place is busy but luckily there is a table still vacant that I can access. All the tables are extremely close together, once a chair is pulled out and customer seated I’m surprised that the servers can squeeze through to do their serving. No chance of me getting to most of the restaurant without people standing up to let me pass. I’m sure even the Queen finds people standing when she enters a room slightly embarrassing at times. It’s not something I enjoy!

Tables close together

The table itself was almost perfect for me to dine at. Height just right for me to get my knees under without the need to lower my chair, I could get close enough to eat at ease because there was just a small central leg. None of this rustic chunky wood stuff.

Having ordered and starting to chat (gossip) a friend fiddled with her cutlery, as you do while patiently waiting for food, mouth watering. The fork looked like this…

Dirty fork

Not wanting to complain, feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed, she got a new one from a cutlery pot.

The food arrived.

For maybe the second time ever (as I’m usually good at picking) I wished I’d ordered something else. It wasn’t awful. It was ok. It was edible. But it was rather disappointing. 

I ordered the ‘Ricotta Spinaci Lasagne – Layers of fresh pasta, ricotta, spinach with a bechamel and tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese’. It was mostly pasta and ricotta. There wasn’t much tomato sauce either to balance it out, give a contrast of flavours, which meant it was quite sickly but at the same time a little bland.

Ricotta Spinaci Lasagne

I could tell it was fresh pasta, which was nice. I love that eggy taste you get with freshly made pasta rather than dried. But then at almost £11 you’d expect the pasta to be fresh. The pasta sheets themselves were actually quite tasty. They just needed a little more between them.

I must say the three other people I was with did all enjoy their food. Two of them having the ‘Pollo Siciliana – Casarecci pasta tubes with chicken, courgette, and spinach in a creamy tarragon & lemon sauce’

Pollo Siciliana
 

and the other a ‘Pollo Spinaci – Chicken, spinach, garlic butter, mozzarella and Granello cheese’ Calzone…

Pollo Spinaci Calzone

The greedy ones had dessert. All a ‘Cookie Dough Al Forno – Freshly oven baked to order! Warm chocolate chip cookie dough filled with a melting chocolate middle, served with vanilla gelato and caramel sauce’

Cookie Dough Al Forno

I didn’t order dessert although there were some nice sounding ones on the menu. I would have chosen the Tiramisu, because if there’s ever a tiramisu when I need a dessert then that is what I order!

‘Desert was really nice, nice and hot (I get so many deserts that are meant to be hot but then aren’t). I’ve had better but it was really good’ – Lucy 

Although it took a little while to grab the servers attention when we had finished, to ask for the bill, the rest of the service was good. The food all arrived at reasonable speed, just the right amount of time between courses without feeling rushed.

Again when leaving Bella Italia I had to disturb a diner mid mouthful, same table, different man by this point. Again he was polite and apologetic, even though I was the one causing the spectacle that neither of us asked for.

NB. You probably realised at the start of this tale I said ‘decided to revist for lunch with friends this week’? ‘This post was written speedier than usual’ I hear you say. ‘Sometimes it takes you weeks to tell us of your escapades’. Yes. Yes it does! I’m still in the middle of writing two adventures that happened a month ago!

Maybe it’s because I wrote half of this post while on my bus journey home, maybe I should write more whilst traveling, maybe a bumpy journey and jerky hands makes my creativity flow. Or maybe when something frustrates you, almost angers you, you become impassioned to get it written down while the feelings and frustrations are there.
Don’t forget to read about their ‘accessible’ toilet before you go. Only then will you understand my full story!
Photo credits: Lucy Betts, Janette Hodds

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28 thoughts on “Please Stand Up – Bella Italia”

  1. I hate that (all too often!) feeling of being the one in the way! We’ve just come back from a hospital appointment where there was literally nowhere sensible to position my daughter’s wheelchair, as they’d squeezed a whole load of extra chairs at the end of every row in the waiting room, so she ended up having to sit half in the corridor!
    Sounds like Bella Pasta need to up their game in all aspects! That accessible toilet experience is… well… not very accessible!!!
    Thank you so much for sharing on #AccessLinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for doing #AccessLinky!
      Oh I know what you mean about hospital waiting areas, it’s the same when I go. Too many chairs and no space for me to park. I’m always either sticking out into the corridor, or in the way of other patients getting through when they are called. That feeling of being an afterthought or inconvenience. Accessibility really shouldn’t be that difficult to consider for these places.

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  2. Agree with everyone else that the state of the cutlery is totally unacceptable. We recently went to the Bella Italia in Solihull and I commented that there was barely any space between tables even for physically able diners; we were regularly jostled by both diners and servers. It’s great that they offer these amazing discounts, but if they are unable to handle a suitable number of diners then they just rethink their pricing policy. On the plus side I’ve always found the food to be good x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes the fork is awful!
      I’m glad I’m not the only one noticing how cramped the seating is, and yes it looked a squeeze for able bodied people. Let alone myself or people with pushchairs. I’ve actually been contacted by Bella Italia, so watch this space!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s not difficult to think about access now. The building was fine to get into but people need to look at the small things too.
      The fork was awful. That’s just unacceptable anywhere!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment!
      Yes, I think everyone has a different story to tell, and all have different difficulties or talents. I’ve learned that even more from reading blogs and joining in with blogging communities.

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  3. I would have been incredibly put off by that dirty fork!! yuk! I have had mostly good experiences at our local Bella Italia, (in Lakeside Shopping Centre) so its such a shame you had a rough one. Im glad you managed to enjoy your catch up with your friends if nothing else xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t had many experiences with Bella Italia, Italian is my favourite so when I find one that works I stick to it like a bad smell. I found that they went hook line and sinker into the chain life and sold out selling basic food not that different from spoons and crammed as many seats into one place as possible, not easy with a pram and worse for wheelchair users. I begrudge leaving an expensive pram in the rain. It’s not a terrible place, it’s just not worth the bill and I’d rather stay in as I know I could cook to the same standard if not better. Hope your next dinner trip is much more delicious xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I agree, I used to rely enjoy dining at Bella Italia. I even when so regular that one waitress knew to bring me straw with my wine. But I think probably servers don’t stick around so long now anyway. Yes there are now very average, I feel you can get similar quality food and service at cheaper places.

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  5. It’s a shame your experience wasn’t the best! Especially the dirty fork!? The Bella Italia in Liverpool seems more spacious than this one.. and the salmon with pasta is very nice 🙂 xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I find that with a lot of restaurants now that they’re really cramped – as if they’ve just tried to squeeze in as many tables as possible. It’s such a shame because when you’re paying those prices you want to be able to relax and have a positive experience x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I used to visit Bella Italia very regularly, about 6 years ago, it was one of my favorite haunts. Not just for special occasions, like Birthdays and anniversaries, but for lunches, and girlie catch ups. I used to enjoy the quiet atmosphere, (even when it was busy.)
    and of course copious amounts of carbohydrates for a reasonable price. But there wasn’t definitely a turning point. When the chain had a ‘rustic Italian make over’ and the menu was revamped to match. Ever since the ‘make over’ the food has become mediocre, and over priced for what I feel like I could buy from M&S for half the price. I feel that the service has become shockingly slow and un-attentive, and all in all the set ups seem clumsy and very tight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. I used to enjoy lunch there with friends at least monthly. I don’t know if my expectations have risen with age or Bella Italia’s service has decline. I’m thinking the latter. And basic access requirements being overlooked so that more customers can be in and out. Like a machine.

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