We've been to the restaurant several times, over a period of five years living in Hitchin. The last ever occasion was New Years Eve '12. I don't make a habit of posting online reviews but it's been ten months and I'm still feel peeved enough to find the motivation for this one.
We had always liked the food (to be fair, it is above average) in the past and had decided we could put up with the owners overtures: his constant regaling of us with dull and rather boastful tales about his life. (His own portrait hung in the main seating area tells you all you need to know.)
So we booked for New Year's Eve. I called and he took the booking, name and time were all we discussed. Job done. We get there in the evening and before us on the table are set menus for four courses. The price, about £130 for two before a tip, was higher than we'd usually go at this place but far from the issue. My girlfriend was seven months pregnant and not eating huge amounts. Two courses at this place was enough to leave us feeling very full. We asked the waitress for the normal menu or some options.
Subsequently, we were told — by the owner, 'via' the embarrassed waitress — that it was pretty much a take it or leave it deal. I called him over and asked him to explain. Firstly, there had been no mention of any set menu when we made the booking. Second, one of us was heavily pregnant and we were in a town of heaving, fully booked restaurants — what should we do? With a dismissive gesture and sneer he suggested "Maybe Zizzi across the road?" (Not sure if this was a swipe at us, or Italian franchise restaurants in general? Probably both.) We were furious but managed to get our own coats and leave without making too much of a scene (difficult but other diners were trying to enjoy NYE).
We resolved to go home and ordered a Chinese takeaway from Magic Wok, which was lovely — you should try it if you're in the area. La Bella Vita? Not so much. With the dated decor and his rambling stories (not to mention the obvious lack of any genuine concern for customers) it — unavoidably — feels like a sad little slice of the owner's past. And he really has no one else to blame for that but himself.
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- Also Known As:
- La Bella Vita Hotel Hitchin
- La Bella Vita Hitchin, Hertfordshire