Having two small children means that meals out don’t happen that often – managing them both can sometimes mean that it is more hassle than it’s worth! There are some key things that I look for when choosing where to eat out with the children and they are:
- Good, prompt service – hungry children get restless and fidget and there is a limit to how much distraction can take place if there is a long wait to order or in between courses
- Decent children’s menu – I *hate* seeing menus that are full of processed foods like chicken nuggets and chips. Not that there is anything wrong with these foods as a one off but at home the children eat what we do, so I don’t want to order them foods perceived as being for children. My favourite restaurants are those that present one menu and the child’s portion is a smaller size of the normal portion. Perfect
- Reasonably priced – Like most children, Daniel and Emma have their moments with food. Sometimes they will wolf it down, other times they will barely touch it. Daniel is in a particularly fussy mode at the moment. I don’t want to be spending a fortune on food only to see it go to waste.
I’ve only been to Bella Italia once and that must be at good 9-10 years ago. I wasn’t impressed at the time. The service I seem to recall was average and the food wasn’t much better. It’s the sort of place that I have since steered well clear of, preferring places like Pizza Express or local chains.
We were invited to try out the refurbished Bella Italia at Parrswood in Didsbury. I have to admit my expectations weren’t very high and beyond them having a refit and a rebrand. We arrived this evening (Saturday) and I was quite impressed. First impressions are that it is very clean, bright and modern looking. We were seated promptly and provided with the menus.
Our waiter for the evening introduced himself and I was really impressed when he also introduced himself to Daniel and Emma. A nice touch – all too often children can be overlooked. There is a children’s menu which I was impressed with. I spotted that it’s been awarded a mumsnet award and I can see why. It has two options and has age guides – so the younger age guide is a smaller, more age appropriate portion. The Piccollo menu that we ordered from for Daniel is a bargain at just £5.45 for three courses, plus breadsticks and a drink. (the larger Grande children’s menu costs £7.95). The full children’s menu can be found here.
It took us a bit of time to decide what to have as there is so much choice on the menu… But we had as follows
Starters – Garlic Bread (Daniel & Emma), Bruschetta (Me) and chicken wings for Damian. All very fresh and tasty and Daniel and Emma enjoyed their garlic bread. Sometimes Bruschetta can be a bit oily or soggy but this wasn’t at all. Damian tells me the chicken wings were very tasty and just the right amount.
Next up we had macaroni cheese (Daniel & Emma) Pizza with red onion and chillis (me) and Carne Calzone for Damian.
By this stage Daniel was full up on apple juice. He only drinks water and milk at home but as a treat as we were out we let him have a fruit juice. These come in a cute little milk bottle complete with a funky straw (and a nice touch is that the children can take the straws home). He proceeded to drink two full glasses of apple juice the minute they arrived and subsequently didn’t much feel like eating his pasta. Emma on the other hand had a good go and managed a bit of my pizza too.
I choose a make your own pizza which was a neat idea. I like quite plain pizzas with a few simple toppings so this was perfect for me. The red onions were super fresh and very tasty as were the green chillis. Damian tells me the calzone was very tasty and a very good sized portion.
Next up was the show stopping Gelato – this is pretty neat and Daniel went running up with the waiter to choose his ice cream (he opted for Strawberry) and Emma had vanilla. I chose the tiramisu and Damian went for some ridiculous ice cream thing that looked fabulous but I’m not sure I could have eaten it all!
I was really impressed with Bella Italia. Our meal came to a total of £56 (two soft drinks and two beers, one child’s 3 course meal and two adult 3 course meals). I was really impressed and it felt like very good value for money. What I particularly liked, and what set them apart from any other restaurant I have been to with the children, is their engagement with Daniel and Emma. Daniel was wiping the table with a baby wipe and a member of staff commented and thanked him for helping to clean up. Our waiter let Daniel put his own parmesan cheese on his pasta and also hi-fived both Daniel and Emma on the way out. Knowing that children can get restless waiting for food they also provide breadsticks which is a neat touch. The food was all really fresh and the service was prompt. Our booking was for 16:30. We arrived maybe five minutes before this and were back in our car for 18:00 – perfect timing for us as that is just long enough before the children get really restless.
The makeover that Bella Italia has undertaken is pretty slick – and is a far cry from the old Bella I recall. I love the bright modern look and it reminds me of an American diner type place, but not full on American, if that makes sense. There was a nice feel about the restaurant, they were super accommodating with the children and there were a lot of staff around. I think we will next visit for a breakfast treat (perhaps for Damian’s birthday in a few week’s time).
All in all I think it is a great restaurant, serving great quality, fresh food. The service is prompt and I noticed a good mix of people, older couples, young families, students, friends etc. It’s location on Parrswood makes it convenient for then heading on to the cinema or another of the complex’s venues.
We were invited to dine at Bella Italia, Didsbury free of charge in exchange for a review. All words and images are my own.