Review: Bellini, Seaburn Dene, Sunderland

Bellini Italian Restaurant
Bellini Italian Restaurant
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Does Bellini have the cocktail for success in a city which isn’t short of an Italian restaurant or two?

On paper, a former pub on the edge of a leafy housing estate, doesn’t sound like the obvious location for an eatery of this ilk.

Caprese starter

Caprese starter

But plenty of free parking and a unique identity that elevates it above a bog standard Italian’s is a recipe that’s still hitting the right spot for diners years after it opened.

The decor’s slicker than you might expect from the uninspired exterior, with distressed wood feature walls, clean lines and a colour palette of earthy tones, while the separate bar area, which is also popular for functions, is a more French grey affair with feature Toile de Jouy-style walls.

The only hint that this is an Italian restaurant is a mural from Michelangelo’s Creation of Man, but it’s tastefully done.

An open kitchen so you can see the pasta preparation is also a nice touch and gives you some reassurance that everything is freshly made.

Prosciutto funghi pizza with added rocket

Prosciutto funghi pizza with added rocket

Friday night in February and the place was packed to its conservatory rafters, so make sure you book ahead – by phone, as not all Facebook messages are answered, as I found out to my annoyance.

It felt suitably special for a date, but was still informal enough for a relaxing night and the large size means you’re not having to shout over the family-size groups at other tables. Its popularity meant there was a good weekend buzz, but it didn’t affect the service which was fast and friendly. Staff here are probably well used to all the plate-spinning that goes into juggling multiple covers.

The menu choices are a real Italian job, all pizzas, pastas, fish and meat options, with prices comparable to their contemporaries, with starters starting at £3.95 and most pizza / pasta options coming in at £8.75. There’s also more choice of wine by the glass and bottle than most, as well as plenty of beer and cider options, on draught and bottled, for those who like to wash their pizza down with something a little heavier.

I chose the caprese salad to start (£5.25). You can’t really go wrong with this Mediterranean classic, but a little more creativity had gone into this one, which was presented as a tower of gooey cheese. I’m all for towers of cheese.

For mains, I chose the prosciutto funghi (£8.75) with an additional topping of rocket for 50p.

A good base of hand-stretched dough laid the foundations for a light pizza with just the right amount of topping that didn’t leave me feeling uncomfortably full.

The Italian flair flows through the dessert menu too and I’d have definitely shoe-horned in some Sicilian lemon cake if my waistband had permitted.

We enjoyed the buzz so much we stayed for a drink in the bar where the bar staff were great at making some gin suggestions which proved the perfect cocktail to end the night.