Last Saturday it was Pizza Express, this Saturday it’s Bella Italia about 15 seconds walk away in the new Cineworld complex at Loughborough.

Bella Italia seems to have come a long way in terms of style and menu since I last ventured into this seemingly omnipresent chain. I remember when it was called Bella Pasta (it was wasn’t it?) and I used to visit one not too far from the Arndale centre in Manchester. I remember it being quite dingy and it was before the smoking ban so I seem to recall a lot of people getting fags on between courses. (By the way I’m not going to translate for US readers so feel free to titter).

The inside of the restaurant is far more attractive and funky than Pizza Express and the staff were really great. The music is laid back old fashioned sounding stuff that sets a good ambience and the only bad thing I can say about the inside was that it was a bit chilly despite it being quite warm outside.

The drinks menu has about three pages of tasty sounding cocktails and a reasonable selection of wine and authentic Italian sourced drinks. I had a reasonably priced pint of Menebrea lager which was like Birra Moretti in taste and slipped down a treat. Siggy had panzrotti funghi – like mushroom stuffed ravioli with rocket – and I had Marco Polo pasta which was ‘s’ shaped cross section ‘tubes’ in a sweet sauce with duck and mushrooms. Both dishes were excellent and the pasta cooked to perfection.

Of course anyone who has read any of my other reviews will know I am a big fan of tiramisu and will always plump for that option should I find it on the desserts menu. today was no exception. The portion size was a bit on the stingy side but the good moistness and coffee taste made up for it. Much better than at Pizza Express but again, I have to say it, not as good as Croma which still holds the crown for the best tiramisu in Loughborough in my opinion.

I had a good look at other people’s food as it came out and the calzone looked great and the pizzas too. They have a good selection of authentic Italian ice cream on the desserts menu too and a mini-dessert tasting menu plus the option to substitute pasta for spiralled vegetables or wholemeal pasta for those on a health drive.

All in all I liked this place a lot. Although the pricing is pretty shocking. Both pasta dishes were just under twelve quid each and pasta is cheap to buy wholesale so they must have a massive markup to pay for all the staff. That said the desserts and drinks were priced on a par with most other places.