HAVING been the patch reporter for Princes Risborough for many years, I had driven past Bella Vita in Bell Street many times but never had the chance to venture inside.

So it was a treat to find out what this Italian restaurant was like. It had a friendly, jovial atmosphere with quality home cooked Italian food.

The staff are brilliant fun and welcoming their diners comes with ease.

It is clear they have a loyal customer base as there were lots of families dining who knew the waiters well.

The inside has pretty simple décor with paintings of Italy adorning the walls.

To start with Lara had a glass of Ancora pinot grigio and I had a house red merlot. Above our table was a picture of Lake Garda, which our waiter told us was where the wine was from, which was a nice touch.

After we had nibbled on delicious home made bread and creamy butter, we took rather a long time to choose what we wanted to eat as there is so much choice.

As well as the usual dishes you would expect from an Italian restaurant such as pizza and spaghetti, there are also some more rustic, authentic dishes.

For starters Lara had the Frittato Capriccioso (£5.95) which was deep-fried mozzarella, served with spicy tomato sauce.

I had a bit of food envy as it was delicious. The tomato sauce was so rich and thick, with just a hint of heat and it married very well with the creamy mozzarella.

I had Calamari Fritti (£5.95), which was deep-fried calamari rings served with a lemon and tartare sauce.

It was a decent portion but some of the squid was just a little tough. However, the batter was crisp and light and I loved the creamy sauce.

For mains Lara had Fettuccine al'Arragosta (£11.95) which was with half a lobster, garlic, chopped tomatoes and wine sauce.

Following a few giggles as I watched Lara attack the lobster claws with gusto, I managed to sneak a taste. The lobster was tender and meaty, with a slightly stronger taste than prawns.

The sauce, again, was divine- this really does seem to be their strong point and the pasta was equally delicious.

I had Saltim'bocca alla Romana (£15.95), which was veal escalopes with Parma ham, sage and marsala wine sauce.

The veal was thin, tender and slightly sweet topped with the delicate and flavoursome ham. The sauce was creamy and sweet with undertones of the musky sage.

It was served with lovely crisp potatoes and greens, which made for a satisfying main.

For dessert I had profiteroles (3.95) which were covered with chocolate cream. It was a surprisingly light end to the meal, as the pastry was well done and the Chantilly cream not overbearing.

The chocolate sauce was a bit like a mousse and was a welcome addition to the dish.

Lara had lemon cheesecake (£3.95) which was a lemon mascarpone cheesecake with a biscuit base and topped with lemon sauce.

It could have been a tad zestier for my liking, but it was deliciously creamy and the base was crunchy and buttery. Lara finished it off with ease.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at this friendly Italian- and this is down to the staff. You don't feel rushed and can enjoy the food at your leisure.

The food is also a welcome change from the large Italian chain restaurants as the dishes feel more authentic and more wholesome. We both left saying we would recommend this great little Italian.

Go to www.bellavitarestaurant.co.uk