THIS restaurant has been a master of disguise in recent times, undergoing a series of name changes.
First it was Mas, a Spanish tapas bar, then On The Square, selling similar fare.
Now it is Ciao Bella, a Mediterranean restaurant, pizzeria and bar, run by new owner Murat Ulker.
There’s no wonder the building is never empty for long, situated as it is in a prime location on John William Street, close enough to the railway station for commuters to be tempted.
But the question is: Does Ciao Bella have what it takes to stay?
Myself and three colleagues decided to road test the restaurant just a week after its opening.
It was very quiet – it was 5pm on a Monday – but the atmosphere was welcoming, as you would expect from a venue whose name translates as Hello Beautiful!
Surrounded by Mediterranean-themed modern decor we settled into comfy leather chairs and were promptly presented with our menus and offered drinks.
While the menu was predominantly Italian, there were a few unusual quirks which showed that Greece had some influence here.
Intriguingly, it also advertised belly dancing and Greek nights, but those were to be explored on another visit.
A variety of specials were on offer, but we stuck to the main menu and opted for spaghetti marinara, penne pollo, penne arrabiata and a diavolo pizza.
While we waited we were given a bowl of succulent black and green olives and crusty bread to nibble on, washed down by two glasses of white wine, one red and a beer. Between us, obviously!
Our main courses arrived promptly and were generously portioned. Judging by the mostly empty plates, the food was well received. The spaghetti marinara was spicier than usual, but pleasantly garlicky and with a good variety of seafood, including a huge langoustine tail, which was unexpected.
The diavolo pizza was packed with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers, making for a spicy mix.
However, one of my companions found the cheese flavours of her creamy penne pollo dish overpowering and the sauce a little heavy. Her advice would be to leave off on the parmesan with this dish.
Surprisingly, three of us managed to find some space for a pudding. We had a choice of three; tiramisu, chocolate fudge cake or profiteroles. Our delicious order of two profiteroles and one cake disappeared quickly, considering the main had been so filling!
With an extra white wine and beer added to the bill we paid a total of £62.76, which we felt represented good value to satisfy four hungry diners.
If we’d wanted to save a little more, we could have taken advantage of the early bird special, which is offered from 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Thursday.
All in all, a good start for Ciao Bella and I don’t doubt there are better things to come.
VENUE Ciao Bella, John William Street, Huddersfield.
TELEPHONE 01484 544454.
OPEN Monday to Saturday 12pm to 2pm, then 5pm to 10.30pm. Bar licensed until 2am.
DISABLED ACCESS Yes
THE BILL £62.76 for four.
WOULD YOU GO BACK? Certainly.