SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IS A PIZZA TO MAKE THE WORLD FEEL A BETTER PLACE
La Bella Cafe
199 Stephen Dlamini Rd (formerly Essenwood), Durban
Call 031 201 9176
Open 6.30am to 11pm
I’m not a regular at La Bella Cafe, but I’ve seen enough to know it’s not a traditional Italian restaurant. There is no mama in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove, no papa greeting customers by name. In fact, La Bella is a somewhat impersonal venue and if there is anyone in charge – and course there must be – it’s not obvious. But on some level it seems to work. It’s big, bustly and cheerful and the food is good, sometimes really good, and it’s cheap. And they have been around long enough to have proven themselves.
Adding to their popularity is their cheap lunchtime and evening specials (Monday and Sunday nights), and events like quiz nights. And, in February this year, they won the Best Pizza in Durban vote by followers of the The Good, The Bad, The Nastyyyy. In fact they’re doing so well a second La Bella has opened in Durban North – address below.
A very large restaurant, La Bella Café occupies the site of what was once Durban’s first ever fire station back in 1887. Today it retains an old-fashioned, trattoria feel, with wooden floors and window-frames. The checked tablecloths offer another touch of Italy. There’s a terrace in the front overlooking St Thomas’s road, and another at the back overlooking Essenwood Park.
Their website describes the menu as having an Italian flair, offering “thin crispy base pizzas and mouthwatering pastas with many other specialties including pork shank and baby chicken. La Bella is open for breakfast with a variety to suit every pallet (sic).”
I shouldn’t laugh, but this misuse of an English word was particularly funny. Pallet means a flat wooden structure.
The menu is very comprehensive. If you can’t find anything to please on it, I suspect you don’t like food at all. At a conservative estimate there are over 127 different types of food. This includes a bar and beer garden menu where you can build your own platter from the likes of ribs, cocktail sausages, samoosas, chicken strips and stuffed jalapeños. Otherwise there are around 12 breakfast options, 23 pizza options 22 pasta options, six salads, an antipasti section, burgers, open sandwiches, paninis, wraps, kids’ meals and specialities which include line fish and chips, risotto, pork ribs and steak. Also some vegetarian options.
The daughter and I were in a happy mood when we chose to lunch at La Bella as we both had just collected our ID smart cards. It was such an ordeal applying for them that we chose to celebrate with comfort food.
She ordered a focaccia, which was topped with caramelised onions, Gorgonzola (this replaced the feta on the menu) and rocket, and raved about it, R45. I opted for a large quattro stagioni, R95 which was a super crispy base topped generously with Parma ham, mushrooms, olives and gilled artichokes. Delicious. One of my best.
Other items we can recommend are the chicken curry pizza and the Mexican topped with meaty bolognese, peppers, onions and chilli. The peri peri prawns is another good option. On the pasta side, the daughter’s vote is for the butternut panzerotti with a choice of three sauces; Napoletana, creamy Parmesan and mushroom, and herb butter and Parmesan.
Service was friendly and fairly efficient. The daughter describes La Bella as a “go to” kind of place. When you can’t decide where to eat, you go to La Bella. I think that pretty much sums up this cheerful eatery. – Ingrid Shevlin
- La Bella in Durban North is at 12 Radar Drive. Call 031 573 1182