An Italian for an Italian, Bella Italia replaces the former Carluccio’s in Watford High Street, but is it any better? The chain opened its first branch in the town only five weeks ago and on first impression, the pale green and blue walls with the wooden furniture and booths gave it a lovely cosy feel with a Mediterranean atmosphere.

At first the staff were nice and welcoming – we ordered drinks first and they came fairly quickly. I had a Peach Bellini, which although nice, needed to have been stirred as the liquor was gathered at the bottom. My friends had a Aperol Spritz (£6.85) and a house red and both said they were pretty nice.

While we looked at the menu, the waiter brought over some olives. For starters I went for the Arancini Peperonata (£6.45), a new addition to the menu which are simply balls of risotto, red pepper and mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs, served with rocket and a dip. These were delicious and to add to that, they came in a mini frying pan on a wooden board.

One of my friends went for the Insalata Caprese (£4.95), a salad of buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, rocket and basil, drizzled with extra virgin oil and balsamic vinegar, which she said this made for a lovely, light starter. My other friend went for the Funghi Arrosto (£5.95), which was essentially baked mushrooms in a creamy sauce with ciabatta and again she said this was delicious.

The mains – two of us couldn’t get our first choices (both pasta dishes) as they were out of stock and that was a little disappointing. To add to this, we had all finished our drinks yet the waiters did not come to ask if we wanted anything else, instead we had to wait and try to flag someone to ask for another drink.

I settled for the Pollo Cacciatore (£12.95) – grilled chicken breast in a mushroom and mascarpone sauce with potatoes and green beans. The chicken was a little dry and could have done with more sauce. My friend’s second choice was the Filetto di Spihola (£13.95) – sea bass fillet with potatoes and vegetables. My other friend chose the classic Spaghetti Bolognese (£9.95) and both said their meals were delicious.

Desserts – again the majority of these were not stock so from the roughly five choices we did have, I had a shot glass dessert of Strawberry Cheesecake (three for £5.25 or five for £7.95), which was pretty standard but the perfect size to round off the meal.

Overall the food is pretty decent, though for some of the dishes could have been better value for money. However, sometimes the service was slow and the staff could have been better managed, which dampened the whole experience.

A little bit of fine tuning is needed and most of all ensuring they have food in stock is key to making sure customers are happy.

Bella Italia 136 High Street, Watford, WD17 2EN Telephone:01923 889863 Website: