Occupation: University President
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Bella Trattoria
Reviewed Bella Trattoria: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Bella’s is the classic neighborhood restaurant where local folks gather for good food at a reasonable price at a place where you are made to feel welcome and at home. I am a frequent patron of Bella’s, drawn by the warm hospitality as much as the fine cuisine. I like the fact that the current owner, David, started out as a server and moved up the food chain over time to become the co-owner. What’s not to like about the American dream?
The last time I was at Bella’s I had the mixed green salad, which was mixed greens with a lemon vinaigrette a dusting of Parmesan that made for a nice blend of flavors. For the main course, I had my favorite entree, gnocchi, even though the server alerted me that it would be served with Italian sausage rather than shredded pork as listed on the menu. Whatever, Bella’s gnocchi is the lightest in the city. The tomato sauce was neither too thick nor thin; it perfectly complemented the spicy sausage and coated the gnocchi without drowning it. I always take David’s wine tip; this time a dry, crisp Pinot Grigio matched the meal perfectly, so much so that I had two glasses.
For dessert, I had their tiramisu. Bella’s version of this classic Italian dessert ideally balances sweetness with espresso for the perfect conclusion to fine a meal. For my tastes, Bella Trattoria tops the price and value list of San Francisco’s neighborhood restaurants.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Outerlands
Reviewed Bella Trattoria: Saturday, May 20, 2012
On an industrial and commercial block of Geary Street, Bella Italiana provides a lovely respite. The high ceilings and mirrored walls give the space an open feel and provide a relaxed atmosphere for this traditional Italian eatery with a menu of comfort food and classic dishes.
The classic Italian menu included and array of starters. Keeping kosher, I do not eat meat in restaurants but found many options for starting the meal. We ordered three very successful salads. The sweetness of the balsamic vinaigrette was a lovely balance for the spring mix of lettuce. The spinach salad was perfectly warmed, while the Caesar was well-executed. One member of our party reported that the meatballs, beautifully presented in a small terrine, were particularly tender.
Pasta took center stage for the entrees. Though there was not much in terms of purely vegetarian options, we settled on two dishes that included fish. All the dishes that we ordered were good. The sauce on my salmon pasta with caviar was neither too creamy nor dry, though the dish could have been a little less salty. The pasta Puttanesca was well done and full of flavor and not particularly spicy.
We were pleased to find the classic Italian desserts, biscotti, tiramisu, panna cotta, and more. Not giving in to the American tendency to be overly sweet, these well-made treats added just the right amount of sweetness to finish off our meal.
Service was attentive without being fussy. Our server was knowledgeable about the wine collection and was able to suggest choices based on our orders. We noted that Bella Italiana was easily able to accommodate several midsize parties through the evening without getting loud or unpleasant. The straightforward menu makes this a good choice for bringing together a group for a fun night out.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Greens Restaurant
Reviewed Bella Trattoria: Friday, May 25, 2012
Nice double height space with controlled noise levels. Not too loud which I liked. Tables were close together, but still comfortable enough.
We had reservations here. The first words out of the hostess’s mouth were not, “Hello, how are you?” they were “ do you have a reservation?” Despite repeatedly telling her we had a 7 pm reservation for which we were 5 minutes late, she kept clicking on someone else’s 7.30 reservation and asking us if that was ours. Fortunately we were rescued from her by a wonderful man from inside the restaurant who showed us our tables.
The standout thing about this restaurant, which overshadowed everything else, was the service which was very, very slow and a bit schizophrenic, good and bad. It was 30 minutes before our appetizers arrived and almost 50 until our entrees did. Different servers would show up to take our order while our original server would pop up a few minutes later to ask us the same questions. They ought to coordinate better and definitely speed up service.
As for the food: we started with a bruschetta, which is a basic dish, but a lot of places can mess it up. Fortunately these guys did not, it was quite a well-balanced and flavorful combination of tomatoes, olives, and basil on lovely crisp bread. The spinach salad was not memorable. It was not well seasoned.
For our entrees, my husband had the Pasta Norcina which was to be orecchiette with chicken and mushrooms baked in a bèchamel, They ran out of orecchiette, and it got substituted by rigatoni. This wouldn’t have been a problem except they decided not to inform us of this fact as a result of which when the entrees arrived, we spent some time wondering whether we got the wrong order and then trying to attract the attention of our server to confirm this. Still quite a good dish, bursting with rich deep flavor. I got the housemade gnocchi with sausage and tomato sauce, which was very good. The gnocchi was some of the best I’ve had, excellent light and fluffy, words which should be, but rarely are associated with gnocchi. It was in a well-balanced tomato sauce with just the right amount of heat and a tasty Italian sausage. This dish was the highlight of the evening.
For dessert we ordered the tiramisu and the panna cotta. The tiramisu was good, very light and soft, with just the right touch of espresso soaked ladyfingers as a base. The panna cotta, sadly, was not good at all. It had a rubbery texture and was devoid of flavor without the accompanying strawberries. We did not finish it.
With just one standout dish, we certainly felt this was not worth the amount of money we spent here. I may do a take out of pasta the next time, don’t think we’ll return to the restaurant.