Bella Vita is one of those restaurants that you always hope you’ll find, but generally are disappointed with – not so at this typically family run Italian on Mosspark Boulevard in Glasgow.
Don’t expect modern decor, you won’t find it here. The walls are red, filled with an eclectic mix of signed football memorabilia, there’s dark wood everywhere, painted murals and I’d hate to be the cleaner. But, you know what, it all lends a really authentic air that pretentiousness to be something else is not what Bella Vita’s all about. Despite the unorthodox decor, it lends a uniqueness of its own which suits Bella Vita very well indeed.
You’ll find this establishment on the outskirts of the city on the southside of Glasgow. There is plenty of both on and off-street parking available in the immediate vicinity.
Disabled access is good with no steps to negotiate, and while it’s a little tight in places inside, there is still room to manoeuvre a wheelchair. A wee tip though, it’s so busy here it’s best to book in advance and advise accordingly. And that holds for all customers – it’s so busy here that a walk-in table is almost impossible to find, even midweek!
The level of service being offered here is, quite frankly, something all restaurants should be seeking to reach and emulate – impeccable comes to mind. From the moment we arrived, until we stepped back out the door, we were treated not as paying guests, but almost like old long-lost family members. I even heard some diners being thanked for their visit with “see you next week.” How many can truly say they have such regular return custom these days?
Escorted to our table by assistant manager Iain Sharp, we were immediately put at ease by his affable nature and friendly banter. Sometimes you just know when a role fits an individual like a glove, as in this case.
There are a number of dining options available here, from early dinner to a la carte, and I can tell you now, that no matter from which you choose, you’re going to get a huge portion at very fair prices.
As a press reviewer, we were provided with some taster dishes while perusing the menus. These include pizza, cheese filled field mushrooms, Mozzarella sticks, and chicken strips. WOW, this was like a meal on its own!
The breaded mushrooms were unlike any I’ve had before, a good size meant they held plenty of filling, the crumbed dressing was crispy and dry and when cut into the cheese oozed, as it should. The paprika battered chicken strips were that good, we didn’t need a knife to cut them, it could all be done by a fork. Talk about tender. The Mozzarella rolls were huge, soft, gooey and again, hadn’t lost their flavour in the cooking or been overcome by the oily taste of a deep fat fryer.
I have to make a comment on the service element of our visit. Everyone seems to be just in the right place at the right time, and there was never any need to summon anyone for extra drinks, napkins or the like. You just know you’ve found yourself a right little gem with some reviews!
So starters chosen, they were duly delivered. Mrs Mac opted for the soup du jour, a cream of cauliflower, and gave the three slabs of bread a miss. Apparently, it’s not diet friendly! I can assure you it never bothered me a bit…She said it was a delicious bowl of homemade soup, creamy, but still full of flavour and bang on the mark. My Gamberoni Aglio Olio Pepperoncino, and for those who don’t read Italian, that is, king prawn tails pan seared with garlic & chilli, deglazed with white wine and served with a dressed salad and toasted Italian bread. This was the ultimate starter. In fact, the prawns were so fresh they must have just been landed. Not too hot but enough of a chilli kick to balance out the sweetness of the garlic and the wine. These were truly little nuggets of joy bursting on the palate. Oh, and did I mention those great hunks of toasted rustic bread are perfect to soak up the sauce.
Following close on the heels of the prawns had to be the pate. The chef’s own homemade chicken liver pate was served with toast & a red onion marmalade. You know that if an Italian restaurant can’t get the pate right, you’ve no hope. This was soft, light, quite creamy and with no bitter aftertaste sometimes associated with pate – and it was a hefty slab lying on the plate too. The marmalade was just the right side of sweet and a perfect foil for the meatiness of the pate
They’re so particular here that they’ve even gone down the road of using an Italian make of carbonated water. Nothing like cutting corners in Bella Vita. When we arrived there were several special on a blackboard, however by the time we had ordered at 7.30pm these had been wiped clean. Another testament to how busy this place gets.
As I touched on earlier, portions are on the generous side so you may wish to keep that in mind. Not that it was a problem for me – after all, what’s a restaurant review if you don’t try the food.
My main was that old staple, the spaghetti carbonara. Even I was surprised to see the size of the bowlful placed before me. And it’s not often I say that, believe me! Bella Vita, let me tell you now, shout about it, scream it from the rooftops, this is easily the best carbonara I’ve had, and that includes some I’ve eaten in Italy. Al-dente spaghetti, chunks of crispy smoked bacon, onion, and all bound up in an amazingly light double cream sauce and finished with the obligatory Parmesan. Not that I was intending to appear greedy, but what’s a carbonara without the garlic bread and cheese. For me, this was probably the tipping point. There were no more notches on the belt which could be loosened without risking a Janet Jacksonesque wardrobe failure.
Mrs Mac decided to “be good” and opted for Branzino Sorrentina – Fillet of sea bass, pan-fried with fresh tomato, spring onions, parsley, and lemon juice, served with the chef’s choice of potatoes & vegetables. Well, when I say good, I’m not certain chips are actually supposed to feature on a diet, but who am I to make such a judgement. There were two plump perfectly cooked fillets of white, fleshy Bass served in a light broth. The little lady was delighted with her choice.
There were no complaints from the three ‘young adults’ accompanying us – after all who turns down a free meal these days – not my kids that’s for sure! Their choices of pizza, tortellini, and ravioli were, as one would expect, wolfed down with neery a word in between forkfuls.
If you’re lucky enough, and he’s been kicked out of the kitchen by head chef Danny Coyle, your table may be visited by owner Mimmo Rossi, whose effervescent personality and love for Bella Vita are plain to see.
Finishing the evening off I pushed the boat out and went for the coppa Amarena, a lush mix of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh whipped cream, Amarena cherry sauce, and finished with Amarena cherries. Lip-smacking sweet. The chocolate souffle did what these are supposed to, that is ooze when broken open. A dark, almost bitter chocolate matched to that sweet vanilla ice cream was the perfect match for each other. Oh, and youngster number two said the banoffee pie hit the spot with him.
All in all, I’ve raved a fair bit about this place, but deservedly so, and I’ll definitely be going back. There’s just so much I want to try.