Monday, 24 July 2017

The Bella Napoli on Kennedy Street ............ where we learned to love pizza

Now I won’t be alone in having fond memories of the Bella Napoli on Kennedy Street.

Neapolitan pizza, 2017
It opened in 1973 just three years after the Isola Bella and we were there pretty much from the beginning, and carried on going throughout the 1970s.

Since then I have eaten pizza in Naples, tried the Metre Pizza, sampled Bob Amato’s special from his wood burning oven in the garden and regularly bought slices from the Chinese takeaway in Varese.*

But it was at the Bella Napoli that I had my first pizza.

Back then it tended always to be the quattro stagioni, accompanied by a glass of wine and followed by chocolate ice cream.

I can’t remember how we came across it probably on one our wanders around town, and it was our place, which we shared with family and friends but remained “our place.”

It was situated on the corner of Kennedy Street and Clarence Street, you entered by a small door beside which was that illuminated glass window made up of the bottoms of wine bottles.

You went down a flight of stairs where there were a dozen tables with red table tablecloths, and a bar with I think the oven beyond that.

At the back was the entrance to the lavatories which were shared with the Isola Bella and above you there were a set of large pipes which I always assumed were to do with the ventilation.

The other end of Kennedy Street, 2017
The menu came on a large piece of white card with a picture of Vesuvius and list of half a dozen pizzas.

It was simple, cheap and friendly.

Once when I was with a works colleague who was a linguist and attempting to show off his Italian he spent a full five minutes conversing with the waiter in Italian only to discover the waiter was Spanish.

Such are the silly moments that stick in your memory and despite these and many other memories I have no pictures of either the outside or the interior.

But someone will, and in the fullness of time I hope will share them.

And it was while I was browsing the net for pictures that I came across an article from the Manchester Evening News recording the death of the owner of the Bella Napoli.

And from the Pizzeria I Decumani****
This was Evandro Barbieri who arrived in Manchester from Milan in 1958 aged 21.  He began work as a waiter in the Midland Hotel and in 1970 opened the Isola Bella, followed by a series of other Italian restaurants.**

If I look hard enough I will I suppose find out when it closed but that won’t do anything for my memories, so I don’t think I will bother.

Instead I shall think also of the cannelloni which in those red and cream ceramic dishes,and which if you weren't careful was so hot it burned your mouth.

Later long after the Bella Napoli had gone we would take each of the older kids for a special birthday meal at an Italian restaurant, each had their own favourite.

For Ben it was the Isola Bella, for Josh Bella Italia and for Saul that one on the corner of Deansgate and Blackfriars Street.

It's pity they couldn't have shared Bella Napoli.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Naples in 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka, Kennedy Street, 2017 courtesy of Andy Robertson and a pizza from the Pizzeria I Decumani


**Tributes to Italian pioneer 'who brought pizza to Manchester', Todd Fitzgerald, December 14 2012, updated January 24 2013,

****Pizzeria I Decumani, Via dei Tribunali, 58 80138 Napoli Italy‎ +39 081 557 1309

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