Bella Italia: "Unchilling On A Chilly December Evening" Top 5 Page for this destination Bella Italia Tip by johngayton

Bella Italia, Exeter: 1 reviews and 3 photos

  From Front Room To Back
by johngayton
  • From Front Room To Back - Exeter
      From Front Room To Back
    by johngayton
  • Facade - Exeter
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  • Very Fuzzy Penne Diavalo - Exeter
      Very Fuzzy Penne Diavalo
    by johngayton

It was a chill December evening: forget about "wind chill" - in Devon it's "damp chill" that you feel on account of the twin coasts and the spaghetti of inland rivers conspiring to ensure that as soon as the temperature drops below zero nothing but the best of thermals will stop the moisture-laden cold penetrating to your bones.

And strangely enough that's what I'd been in Exeter for - to pick up my thermals.

My day had started with a short unthermalled and ungloved cycle ride to my nearest bus stop - only a mile or so but by the time I got there I was effin' frozen. The bus was late and wasn't too well heated either.

Chilled to the bone I picked up (and put on) my thermals then popped down to Plymouth by train to do a bit of shopping (including a new pair of cycling gloves) and then back to Exeter in order to get the bus back to pick up my bike and cycle home.

I missed my intended bus by literally a minute and had an hour until the next one. I hadn't thawed all day and sustenance was definitely required.

I was going to do the cheapo bit and get a "sub" from the Subway on Queen Street but this little place next door looked inviting for a sit-down, unchill and to-hell-whether-I get-the-next-bus-or-not.

Turned out to be a good choice.

I'd eaten here before when it was themed as a "Cafe Rouge" and immediately noted that the old Cafe Rouge furnishings and fittings were the same - the only difference was in the decorative bits: the Eifffel Tower having been replaced by that of Pisa and a few similar alterations.

Once a chain restaurant always a chain restaurant - HA!

As chain restaurants go tho' this was pretty good. A warm welcome from my enthusiastic server, not particularly proffessional but genuine as he he handed me the menu and informed me the soup of the day was a "warming pumpkin puree and ideal for a night like this".

Favorite Dish: OK that was the starter sorted - then I noticed I was still in time for the "Pezzo Fizzo" menu which runs from lunchtime until 7 pm (8.95 for 2-courses) and the "Penne Diavolo" looked good to continue the unchilling theme.

The soup indeed was "ideal for a night like this" - a smooth thick puree of pumpkin with little back-hints of garlic, onions and ginger and served piping-hot with a crunchily-toasted slice of ciabatta.

My pasta too worked - a huge bowl of slightly al-dente quills generously meaty with slices of spicy sausage in a rich tomato sauce enlived with fresh green chillies and finished at the table with a good crack of black pepper and freshly-grated Parmesan.

Good nosh.

Best though was the service - I had to wait a little longer than expected for my soup to arrive but the waiter, noting that I was sort of staring into space (which actually I was and wasn't - lot of things on my mind) brought me over a copy of the latest "Exeter Events" to read whilst waiting - that was a nice touch.

The restaurant itself is quite intimate with a front room more suited for cafe-style eating and the low-ceilinged back room a tad more formal. Even on a quiet Monday December evening the place had a pleasant buzz with a mix of locals, shoppers and a couple of tables of tourists.

After eating I fancied a liqueur with a coffee but my waiter didn't have the list in his head (nor was it on the menu) and so I went to the bar to see what they had - I immediately fell in love with the manageress - she had a smile that I'd die for to see at breakfast time ;)

Frangelico (the hazelnut liqueur from Piedmont) is one of my favourites and as I noticed the bottle the manageress simultaneously recommended it to me - HA! We're getting married tomorrow.

Me and Frangelico that is - I never did find out the manageress's name ;(

Address: 92 Queen Street
Price Comparison: less expensive than average
Directions: Between Central Station and the High Street
Price: US$21-30
Rating: 4
Theme: Italian

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 30, 2015
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