One thing there is no shortage of in Liverpool city centre is good Italian restaurants, but until recently I had not dined at Bellini, a self-proclaimed hidden gem which is situated right in the heart of Liverpool in a convenient location close to Liverpool One.
Open from lunchtime until late every day, Bellini serves a traditional menu of hearty Italian fare such as pizza and pasta as well as specials, seafood and steak. The produce used is carefully sourced and seasonal and local provenance ingredients are used where possible. Pasta is made from scratch on site and there is a good choice of dishes on the menu created by Head Chef Mario. The first impression you get when walking in to the restaurant is how bright and airy the space is, with large windows, high ceilings, a neutral colour scheme and a bar area with an eye-catching light display. Vases of fresh flowers add a touch of colour and in the evening tables are candlelit creating a cosy ambience. There are plenty of sophisticated dishes on the menu, such as lobster ravioli, sautéed king prawns and chicken with blue cheese sauce as well as all the Italian favourites you would expect including lasagne and spaghetti with meatballs. The restaurant is named after the cocktail which is one of its bestsellers and Bellini also serves a range of other cocktails such as Manhattan, Margarita and Negroni.
We started the meal with a cheese topped garlic bread which was crispy and delicious with just the right balance of garlic and melted cheese. For the main course I was eager to try the fresh pasta, so I opted for the signature dish penne Bellini consisting of penne pasta with a chargrilled breast of chicken and vegetables in a cream cheese sauce. The sauce was rich with just the right hint of cheese and the vegetables and tender chicken complemented this dish perfectly, which was finished off with a good sprinkling of parmesan. The wine list at Bellini is impressive with a selection of carefully chosen reds, whites, rosé and sparkling varieties all available. We sipped an excellent Barolo which was a deep, dry red with plenty of spice and a touch of rose and this went well with our choice of food.
My dining companion enjoyed the pizza bomba topped with tomato, mozzarella, ham, speck, pepperoni and bacon. This authentic style pizza was thin and crispy with a good range of flavours from the generous amount of toppings. We decided on a dessert platter to share as we were spoiled for choice from a menu which has a good range of sweet treats to choose from. The panna cotta was light and delicate whilst the profiteroles had perfect choux pastry and a rich cream filling topped with an indulgent chocolate sauce. The trio of desserts was rounded off by a wedge of fresh strawberry cheesecake which had a golden biscuit base with a thick and creamy layer and a strawberry topping which was not too sweet. We rounded the meal off with coffee and after dinner cocktails as we relaxed and soaked up the cool and spacious ambience of the restaurant.
Bellini does classic Italian food well and the chefs show finesse in the subtle flavour profiles of their comforting dishes and freshly made pizza and pasta. There is a good balance to the menu, with classics making an appearance alongside dishes with a contemporary slant. There is a children’s menu available as well as well as lunch and early evening deals and the central location makes this the ideal place to dine when in the city centre. The elegant bar area has a welcoming feel and this is a good place to drop in to for a cocktail or a glass of wine and some of the excellent antipasti, bruschetta and charcuterie available. Italian food is often on the hearty side, but there are plenty of lighter options on the Bellini menu such as caprese, Caesar and prawn salad varieties and gluten free pasta is available too. The restaurant has already carved out a niche for itself and is quickly gaining a reputation for Italian comfort food and a good cocktail and wine menu. For a chic and stylish bar and restaurant with plenty to offer, Bellini is a worthy addition to the Liverpool dining scene.