Nothing perks up a working week like a treat lunch out, so when my Grandma invited me for a spot of midday munchies on Tuesday, I jumped at the chance to stretch my legs and escape the office for an hour. It also seemed the ideal opportunity to check out family run Italian venture Ciao Bella, situated on South Street in Romford; a restaurant I had wondered past many times but never actually had the chance to visit. Meeting at 1.30pm, the venue was surprisingly empty, so we had our pick of the dark wooden, rectangular tables.
Approaching Ciao Bella, it has a simplistic yet appealing nature, with a sleek black sign, swished with sweeping and swirling letters in the Italian’s flag trademark colours of red, white and green. Cheap metallic silver tables glinted under the awning in the afternoon sunshine, the door set open to attract passing custom. When we entered, the venue was surprisingly roomy, stretching out quite far backwards, with plenty of space. Considering it was lunch time, it was very quiet, so we were seated at a table for four people, the table dressed with white paper napkins, cutlery and wine glasses. The décor was muted and calming, the walls painted over in mint green and white, giving a really refreshing impression yet still in keeping with the Italian theme. Circular wall art decorated one wall, whilst stylised, glossy cinematic images added some va va voom to the plain white sections of wall.
Once we were seated, and sipping the deliciously fruity and soft house white wine, we began to take a look at the extensive menu. Being a classic Italian, they offered limited sections, consisting of mainly pizza, pasta, salads and some meat dishes as well as starters and desserts. Despite restricted menu sections, they offered a ton of dishes in each category with an absolute array of choice that mixed traditional Italian flavours of tomatoes, cream and olives in many of the options. It was brilliant to have so much to pick from, even if it did make the decision more difficult! They also had a tall rectangular special’s board that was packed with small chalk writing, listing reels of extras for each course, providing yet even more choice for us to enjoy. There definitely wasn’t a lack of options.
I fancied a pasta dish, so I opted for the Penne Paradiso, which featured chunks of juicy chicken, cubes of courgettes and carrots, with wilted leaves of spinach elegantly swamping the top tubes of penne. The entire dish was swathed in a fantastic garlic and cream sauce – it had a thin yet silky consistency so it wasn’t too heavy or rich yet coated the pasta perfectly. The cream aspect of the sauce was really rather buttery giving a lovely smoothness, whilst the garlic added a wonderful warmth that inundated the liquid with a gentle pungent heat that I adored. Every aspect of the dish combined beautifully to make a really tasty, light and filling meal, with lots of yummy components. The portion size was also good as it had plenty to fill me up, without being too bloating, which can be a danger with pasta.
With just enough time to sneak in dessert, I couldn’t resist the temptation of the Italian trademark dish tiramisu. It didn’t have an overly handmade appearance, however it was simplistically tasty, with thin yet strong coffee flavoured sponge fingers, encased in thick layers of creamy mascarpone. It tasted more of light and fluffy cream than mascarpone, with the coco powder adding an extra boost of chocolate flavour to the creamy consistency. The dessert was finished with friendly squirts of cream down one side. It didn’t really have any wow factor and the tastes didn’t blow me away at all, but it was yummy and hit the sweet spot nicely.
For our two main courses, two desserts and two glasses of house white wine, we paid £38, so it would have worked out about £20 per person for a two course meal with wine, making it really reasonable. I would love to go again, as I believe Ciao Bella is somewhere that would have something for everyone, covering the basics of foods that most people will enjoy and devour happily. The quality of the food was also lovely, although the presentation of the desserts could have been jazzed up some more for some added class. A really decent yet overlooked restaurant that I will be dragging friends and family to soon I hope – I still need to sample the starters!