Image description: a pasta dish at Bella Italia
Bella Italia is situated in the heart of Oxford’s “Italian District” – flanked by Franco Manca, Ask Italian, and Zizzi just a bit further down the road, it might not always stand out as an obvious choice for your pizza fix. Except now, I have a great reason why it ought to.
A few weeks ago, the Oxford Student were invited to try the Bottomless Brunch menu at Bella Italia, and a get a sneak preview of Christmas Party menu. The brunch features either two or three courses and never-ending fizz that is guaranteed to leave you grinning from ear to ear. The service is incredible – the waiters and waitresses float between the tables like prosecco pixies, ensuring that there’s never a dry moment while you savour their dishes. An Italian restaurant might also be an unexpectedly fitting place for a festive party – cheese gets its moment in the spotlight at Christmas, and the chefs at Bella Italia certainly know how to make it shine through a dish!
The waiters and waitresses float between the tables like prosecco pixies…
The staff were keen to tell us all about their favourite dishes on the Christmas Party menu, and following a recommendation, I started with the hearty Arancini al Granchio, packed with crab, prawns and fennel, and paired with a refreshing wedge of lemon. The bitesize arancini were the perfect starter, whetting my appetite for the main to come while being satisfyingly creamy itself. There are also other appetizers on offer on the Christmas Party menu, such as the classic Bruschetta Pomodoro, served on a garlic ciabatta, and the festive Zuppa Zucca: a roasted squash soup with hints of rosemary, served with mouth-watering pecorino dough balls.
For mains, I opted to try the most popular dish on the Bottomless Brunch menu – the Pollo Cacciatore. I would definitely recommend this dish if you visit Bella Italia for the brunch; it deserves its popularity with its show-stopping, slightly sweet tomato sauce, crispy pancetta, and perfectly tender chicken. This dish had layers upon layers of flavour, showing off that pasta can be far more complex and sophisticated than the average student’s pesto. The Bella Italia menu has a few veggie and vegan options to choose from too, including a vegan Bolognese and a creamy mushroom pasta made with unique mafalde ribbons.
The Christmas Party menu boasts a large selection of completely new menu items, including a festive turkey pasta, layered with the flavours of sage, onion, and garlic, as well as a white-base Christmas pizza with toppings including pork, pancetta, and cranberry. Both of these items are sure to attract the adventurous eater, but there are also more traditional Christmassy meal options: the Tacchino Arrosto, a roasted turkey breast accompanied by elevated trimmings, the Pollo Saltimbocca, a prosciutto wrapped chicken breast, and even a delicately baked Salmon al Forno.
If you have a sweet tooth, you might choose to have a main course and a dessert, or even all three courses – a decision that will leave the rest of the table salivating if they make the mistake of neglecting the third course. The Bottomless Brunch options include a molten cookie dough or a double chocolate brownie, each served with a scoop of vanilla gelato, as well as a tiramisu with the classic Italian charm. The Christmas menu has some desserts that are inspired by the spicy Yuletide flavours of panettone as well as a seasonal crumble – potentially a welcome departure from Britain’s divisive figgy pudding.
Clearly, Bella Italia go far beyond the average Italian chain with their party options, and whether you opt for the Bottomless Brunch with Prosecco at £27.99pp for two courses, or the Christmas Party menu at £17.99pp for two courses and £19.99pp for three, they will ensure a dinner to remember with stylishly presented, comforting and elevated Italian dishes. Quoting the Oxford Student can even secure you a 20% discount (Sun-Wed from 7:30pm onwards) on the Christmas Party menu, which is available from the 15th November.
Image credit: Shreya Banerjee