Belle Italia is quite a rare Gem in Inverness would be what I have to say first, when entering you get hit right away with the rustic décor and amazing smells of Italy. While seated however you get hit with a chilling draft every time the door is opened and close proximity of people waiting to be seated. It only distracts however from the surroundings temporarily.
We were seated by a waiter with a wonderful authentic Italian accent which somewhat added to the experience, I'm afraid I didn't catch his name but he was very polite and a gent right the way through and showed a true grasp of the menu. At the end we discovered his name was Zorro from the receipt. After ordering drinks we looked over the menu but were in a touch of a rush to see a show so didn’t order starters. What I seen as a touch odd was a lack of bread, balsamic and oil. I wasn’t inconvenienced by it and the starters seemed for all other tables to come out very quickly which I imagine is why bread is not provided automatically. From the service and feel in the restaurant I’m quite sure bread would have been provided should we have asked for it. It was a varied and large menu but not too large you were swamped which I find to be very good.
Our mains came surprisingly quickly, I’m afraid we were not too inventive and had a Pizza Marco Polo (Shredded duck, spring onions and mozzarella on a sweet aromatic plum sauce base) and Pollo e Spinaci calzone (Sliced chicken breast, garlic butter, fresh spinach, parmesan and mozzarella) with a side of chips as suggested by our waiter. I tasted both and have to say couldn’t find fault with either. The service which was prompt, polite and attentive. We were offered Parmesan and black pepper and always felt looked after by our waiter, a teeny touch I always like is when a waiter asks if you’ve been before. It shows they’re thinking a few steps ahead which how long you might take to look over the menu or if there are any little suggestions the waiter can make from his own experience. I do always enjoy having the same waiter, there’s always some argument over which method is best to allocate tables but having the same waiter throughout always feels a touch more personal to me.
Looking back at the food more the Calzone had a perfect spread of fillings and I was very pleased by the thickness of the dough which can sometimes be overdone and just leaves you full far too quickly to enjoy the filling. As well as being spread well the filling was also balanced very well with the Garlic coming through in every bite but not overpowering the chicken, spinach, mozzarella or sauce. While mentioning the sauce, in this calzone the filling really shone as there was less sauce than most places put in a calzone which can tend to overpower everything else unless the flavours you put in are very strong but on this occasion as I said. It was just right. The chips although a side were served and so I feel should still get reviewed and I would have said for our tastes were a little over done, just a little though and we still finished them. One small critique is we were given no choice as to if it came with a sauce or not or offered a selection of sauces. Not a large difference but it’s the little things sometimes that stick in your mind.
The pizza I ate little of but can say what i tried was great. The base was just limp enough but still had a crispness too it; the duck itself was cooked perfectly and not dried out which matched well with the spring onions moistness. Much like the calzone the sauce didn’t overpower and the whole pizza was balanced very well.
As I said we rushed skipping starters but there was no way we would skip desert, after our plates were quickly cleared and a few extra slices o pizza boxed to go we quickly ordered and were served our delicious deserts. I had the Torta Limone (Lemon sponge layered with lemon cheesecake and zesty lemon custard, with a pot of fresh cream) which was very fresh and not too heavy at all, the cream on the side mixed well with the light crumbly base though I couldn’t help that feel a little ball or lemon sorbet might have aided this slightly I wasn’t disappointed with what I got.
My better half had the Cookie Dough Lava Cake (Moist chocolate chip cookie cake with a melting chocolate middle, served warm with vanilla pod ice cream and caramel sauce) which again I just had to taste, the nice mix of soft warm cookie and refreshing cold ice cream was excellent. I love a mixed hot/cold desert as do most and this filled that purpose very well.
We were politely offered coffees and asked if we required anything else which unfortunately we could not oblige as we needed to leave in the next five to ten minutes or so to pick up our tickets before the show however I would have been very comfortable to just sit there and watch the world go by with a nice cuppa had I been able to.
Throughout I felt very comfortable apart from the occasional cold blast form the door and very welcome. My only low point would be when the bill arrived, in honesty I’m in two minds about the pricing. You pay for quality and this was quality, you could really tell a lot of attention was put into everything leaving the kitchen but I do think you could very easily spend a large amount with a mix of menu choices here. For two courses for two adults with one drink each we were [£45] which I would say is a touch higher than we would commonly pay for a meal for two with three courses but that quality was there so you’ll need to take the facts and see how you feel about the pricing yourself.
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