restaurant review: bella italia, basildon

bella italia basildon review

In the South of Essex is an area of Basildon known affectionately as Bas Vegas. Nestled among industrial estates is a retail park with cinema, bowling and various bars and eateries. It’s been a popular evening destination for the locals for nearly twenty years. I’ve seen dozens of films there and eaten there countless more times. It’s not a place for independents – it’s crowd-pleasing mega-chains that dominate: Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Pizza Hut etc. The latest to open on the park is Bella Italia.

I went in a party of 8 in the run-up to their grand opening. They’ve done a great job with a limited space. The ceilings are tall and gives the place an airy feel, with bright banquettes and a few cheeky touches such as a gelato bike.

Retro tourist posters adorn the walls

Retro tourist posters adorn the walls

We had two separate tables booked but the staff were perfectly happy to consolidate us to one table. After that excellent welcome things didn’t continue well when Mrs. Spud had her whole cocktail upended all over her by the server. The staff were very apologetic but letting slip it wasn’t the first time our waitress had done that today wasn’t reassuring.

We were starting to worry when the olives arrived on the table. My family are voracious olive eaters yet we tried some of the most disgusting purple olives we’d ever eaten. Bitter and waxy; truly unpleasant. Thankfully things were on the up once starters arrived.

arancini bella italia basildon

Arancini peperonata

My arancini were very good specimens: tangy tomatoey balls of risotto that were soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. Sweet with red pepper they were very tasty. Elsewhere on the table we enjoyed salads (can’t beat a good insalate caprese), shell-on prawns and various breads without complaint.

Our friends had tried the pasta on a previous visit and weren’t impressed, so we veered away from that. For mains pizza was a popular choice in my group. There are some interesting alternative toppings such as the veg-laden quattro legumi and pollo e spinaci.

Luganica Rosmarino bella italia basildon

Luganica Rosmarino pizza

My meaty Luganica Rosmarino pizza was fragrant with rosemary and as thin as you like. A good example of the genre. Everyone else were very happy with their food. I’d really like to go back and sample the Salmone Tarragon. The children were satisfied with chicken and chips with my daughter proclaiming it the “best chicken ever”.

There were familiar faces for dessert. Gelato, cheesecakes, brownies… I played it safe it with the tiramisu which was as good as any other high street chain.

Apart from Bellinigate, service was fine if a little rough around the edges but I’m sure that will improve over time. The menu is varied enough to suit most though it appears to want to try and appease as many as possible with items like “Burger Americano” and “Pollo Caesar” (Caesar salad) which don’t gel well with everything else. Pricing was as you would expect with starters in the £5 – £7 range and mains in £10 – £15 bracket.

It’s a fun, breezy place that will no doubt attract a huge following for families looking for a post-cinema meal. It’s also the kind of chain that offers lots of vouchers and midweek discounts so will be popular with the coupon crowd. Just don’t have the olives.

I attended Bella Italia during a soft launch: food was free but we paid for drinks and service.


  • natalie giglio

    Went there last night (30 th April) was a complete disaster! Not the fault of waiting staff… At one point the whole restaurant was food-less!! We ordered the most simple meals… 40 min wait for kids cucumber/carrot sticks… Nearly 2 hours for mains which turned up in edible. Manger said whole thing would be free…. Came home and ate hot cross buns ?

    • Well that doesn’t sound very good at all. Let’s hope it’s inexperience and they’ve sorted themselves out.

  • I walked through the door with a friend, and asked for a table for two at 6:20pm, the girl at the front desk told us that it would be a 15 minute wait, and we said that we were fine waiting. She then walked away from the desk without asking if we would like to go to the bar, or take a seat in the bar area. We took ourselves over after feeling a bit lost and unwelcomed and ordered a drink, we then sat down at a bar table and waited to be shown to our table, 30 minutes had passed and my friend looked and smiled at the girl from the desk, and tried to get her attention, the girl made eye contact and swiftly turned her head and walked past, clearly ignoring us, I had also attemped this multiple times, clearly we were invisable. Three other parties, including a large group that requested a table after us, were all seated, we then had decided after 55 minutes that we were not waiting any longer, there wasn’t an apology or explaination from the girl from the desk, she continued to pretend that we didn’t exist. So we went to the bar to pay for our drinks. The bar man asked if we were leaving, and offered to get us a table straight away if we would like to stay and took our drinks off our bill. We accepted and he lead us to a table in a row of five that had been empty the entire hour we had been there, not to mention the other side of the restaurant was also empty. We were sat down and given menus, and thanked the bar man for his help. 10 minutes later a waitress came to our table and asked if we would like any drinks, we gave our order straight away – bearing in mind this was a can of drink and a coffee, this then took another 15 minutes to come to our table, we were right next to the bar. We were not asked if we were ready to order and the waitress had walked off, then several minutes later another waitress came to our table and asked if we were ready to order, at this point we had decided that we were not staying to eat and were already disgusted with the customer service, she picked up our menu’s and walked away. We then walked to the bar to pay for our coffee and can of drink, when another waitress who hadn’t spoken to either of us during our visit looked us up and down and gave a very dirty look. All staff around the area stared and not one apologised for the bad experience, we then left and I will not be returning at any point in the future. I certainly would not reccomend either.


  • Yep, totally agree, went with 2 friends in Feb 2017 for the first time. Had similar experience, will not be returning or recommending.

  • I went with my friend a few weeks ago and after reading the trip advisor reviews I was expecting the worst. I allowed us plently of time to eat before our movie (Chiquitos always seem to be slow so i’ve learnt to allow plenty of time) and we both just had mains. We both loved our pizza and I would say it was more enjoyable than the one i’d had in Prezzo a few weeks earlier (although i enjoyed my £1.30 pizza from Aldi more than that one!) and thought the menu was nice and varied and a decent price. It seems the service is still hit and miss judging from these comments but based on our experience i would go back, and i usually book.