Penang’s Friendliest Little Italian Restaurant

Bella Marino was opened by two Penangites – Prem Kumar and Terence Khaw – in 2011.  They are obviously not Italian but they love Italian food.

Prem is the chef.  He has worked in Beach Blanket Babylon (Penang), Langkasuka Hotel (Langkawi), Club Med (Phuket) and Bella Italia (Penang) before deciding to starting his own business.  Nowadays, he rides a KTM Duke 990 to work in his own kitchen in Bella Marino.

“To be honest, I have not been to Italy.  But, I did learn a little bit about Italian food from Italians at Club Med Phuket and Bella Italia Penang.  The most important thing is to cook from the heart, to use the freshest ingredients, and to always do your best for your customers.

“The best part of being a chef is to receive compliments from your guests, especially visiting Italians who say they like our food,” he said.

Prem says he is looking forward to visiting Venice someday.  He’s got a thing for gondolas.  And, to all the beautiful Italian women he meets there, he will say: “Come and try my tiramisu in Penang.  It will melt your heart.”

Terence is the restaurant manager.  While earning his diploma from the Institut Hotelier Cesar Ritz (Swiss Hotel Schools and Colleges), he worked at the Savoy London (as a trainee).  When he returned to Penang, he worked at Novotel Penang, the Penang Airport Restaurant and the CRC Restaurant.  He became “addicted” to Prem’s spaghetti all’amatriciana bianca.

“I love pasta.  My cousins had Italian boyfriends when I was in London and they always cooked up a storm on weekends.  When I returned to Penang, I met Prem when he was the chef at Bella Italia.

“One fine day in 2010, we met over a cup of ‘teh tarik’ and decided to set up our own little restaurant.  Being Penang boys, we wanted it to be a friendly, informal place to hang out and enjoy great Italian food, as well as good coffee and irresistible desserts, ” he said.

Terence still likes his favourite spaghetti dish with beef bacon, tossed with olive oil and chilli, at Bella Marino.  And, when he’s had enough pasta, he drives over to Gurney Drive or town for ‘hokkien mee’.