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Ciao Bella
Restaurant Address:

52 John William Street, Town Centre

Visited On:

Monday August 3rd, 2009, 7.30 pm

Reviewed By: Daniel, Shelley

Unlike the cobbled nooks and crannies of ancient Siena streets (where any heartened traveller might discover the real delights of traditional Italian cuisine tucked away in some hidden corner of Roman opulence), you don’t have to search far in Huddersfield to get a taste of the Mediterranean. Overlooking the town’s grand St. George’s Square, Ciao Bella on John William Street is a little piece of Italy in a very English setting.

With the new renovations of the square complete, the overtures of the industrial revolution are still prevalent. See for example, the statue of Harold Wilson overseeing the day’s passengers ascending and descending the steps to James Pritchett’s neo-classically styled train station. Ciao Bella is then the ideally placed slice of the continental, situated in a setting that befits the taste of Italy away from the Tuscan sun: tradition, history, and regional identity.

Being centrally located, the restaurant is most easily accessed by those using public transport directly into Huddersfield town centre. Train users won’t have a problem finding the restaurant as it’s straight ahead of you as you leave the main entrance to the station. There’s no private car park but parking is available on John William Street (where Ciao Bella is to be found) and surrounding streets. Parking is free after 6pm Monday to Saturday, and free all day Sunday.

We booked our table for two at 7pm. We successfully changed this at late notice to a table for 4 at 7.30pm, and the restaurant was able to accommodate this change without any problems.

Passing pleasant outdoor seating you enter through glass doors into the neorealist-style bar area, its inspiration proudly presented on the walls with the beautiful black and white images of 1960s Italian movies. The bar area – which is essentially a mix of modern design and nostalgic décor – is rich with character without being pretentious. I’d imagine it would be an agreeable place to have a drink during busy periods. As it was quite quiet, our waitress welcomed us and we were swiftly taken to a table overlooking an open kitchen. I was surprised to find our table not set for four people, but this was quickly rectified.

There was a large family party near to us and a few other diners but the restaurant was only a third full. Perhaps Thursday evenings are a good time for a quiet meal at Ciao Bella. There was a friendly atmosphere, and its mix of modern and retro-Italian décor lent the place an authentic ambience.

The striking thing about the menu is the sheer range of choices available. All tastes are catered for. From freshly cooked pasta and delightfully tasty thin-crust pizzas, to meat dishes such as steak, a range of fish (including Salmon, Swordfish, and Sea Bass), Italian poultry such as Pollo ala Griglia (grilled chicken with red onions and chorizo), several types of Risotto, and a wholesome kids menu that includes a main and a dessert. The menu is largely, as you’d expect, Italian in focus, but features several dishes steeped in the traditions of food cooked in Greece and central, southern Europe.

We found the prices to be very reasonable (for example, I had the pizza with tomato and roasted garlic to start, which cost only £3.25), but there is also an early bird menu which runs Monday to Thursday from 4pm to 6.30pm and includes any starter with pasta or pizza and a glass of house wine for £8.50.

Between our party of four we each had a different starter. We were all impressed with the size of the starters, and equally impressed with the ensuing taste. My garlic and tomato pizza was light and tasty. It was also very filling and while I enjoyed it I would insist on sharing it with someone else next time. My fellow diners had the Garlic Pizza Bread (which is similar to the garlic and tomato pizza without the tomato topping), the Funghi (Garlic mushrooms in a creamy parsley and garlic sauce), and the tomato Bruschetta.

For main, I decided, after much deliberation and my usual lack of adventurism in trying something different, to have the Spaghetti Bolognese. I wasn’t disappointed. Another big portion arrived and I was offered grated Parmesan to compliment my Bolognese. I accepted but the dish hardly required any additional compliment. The sauce was delicious: rich and full of flavour. It was obviously freshly made, and while it could have been a little spicier, it didn’t have that overdone stewed texture you sometimes get with sauces that have been cooked a day or two before and reheated.

As a table we sampled a good range of pizza and pasta dishes with my Bolognese along with a Lasagne, Pepperoni pizza and Vegetable pizza. Everyone was happy with their choices, but little room was left for dessert. We decided to share a couple of chocolate fudge cakes, while I sampled the delights of an Irish coffee.

Each of our courses arrived in timely fashion from attentive, polite staff. Our drinks order was plentifully replenished when required, and there was a range of wines and beers to choose including the Italian lager Peroni, which is one of my favourites. Complimentary water was also offered to us.

The toilet facilities are clean and tidy but those with mobility issues should take note that these facilities are to be found down a steep set of stairs.

The total for our meal for four people which includes four starters, four mains, and two desserts came to a very reasonable £49.30. Bottle’s of Peroni were priced at £3, while two small glasses of Rose wine and one large glass of Rose wine came to £7.30.

With an array of Italian restaurants to choose from in Huddersfield, Ciao Bella (which translates to “Hello Beautiful”) has to rank near the top for the single most important reason: the food. It takes the Italian ethos for good cooking and fresh ingredients, and delivers it with style and great value.

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