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Bella, better and better

You can experience Italy without having to travel

Posted: March 9, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: March 9, 2012 6:00 a.m.

The patio at Bella Cucina is now shaded and features plastic roll-down windows to block the breeze. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a summer sundown or to enjoy a party.

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It's been nearly two years since Escape last visited Bella Cucina and, in that time, there have been a few changes. Most notably, the large outdoor patio is now shaded and has plastic roll-down windows to block the breeze, yet still allow the beautiful view to be seen. It's the perfect place for a summer sundown dinner or a large party. The patio also has cooling fans, a television and when, things are busy, its own bar.

There have been some changes to the Bella Cucina menu and lunch offerings as well, but never fear, the same delicious, authentic Italian cuisine awaits you, as do the friendliness and care owners Jay and Roza Hamzehei ensure you will experience.

As Roza previously told us, "The menu is both southern Italian and northern Italian. There are good recipes in both. While the southern Italian has more spices, there are also a lot of good recipes from Tuscany (northern Italian)."

"Our secret for good tasting Italian food is our marinara sauce. We make it fresh every day," Roza said. And the bread and garlic rolls are baked daily.

"And all the other food is made after people order," Jay added. "It's fresh food with high quality ingredients." Even the sauces are made for each order.

"If we don't like it, we don't give it to the people," Roza said. "We try to make it delicious. We want people to be happy and satisfied."

"Our Persian tradition is to give the best of anything to guests," Jay said, and Roza noted this is also an Italian tradition.
Beyond the food, the Hamzeheis welcome everyone as friends. "We talk to the people. The customers are our family. They don't come, eat and go," Jay said.

Roza noted that the wine menu includes the best wines from southern Italy, northern Italy and California. Of course, there is also a full bar and, since our last visit, a special $9 martini menu has been added.

Also new since last time are gluten-free items and more low carb dishes, as well as blackboard specials at dinner time.
And catering has become a specialty at Bella, for in-house parties or at outside locations. Bella can provide the food or the food and servers, as necessary, for any sized group, though large groups will need to plan farther in advance.

"We'll do anything on the menu or what you want us to do," Roza said.

Bella Cucina serves lunch menu specials Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can get a variety of delicious pastas, with soup or salad, for $10.99. Personal pizzas are $10.99, panini sandwiches are $8.99 with soup or salad, and salads range from $8.99 to the Insalata Salmone, at $12.99.

The dinner menu is even more expansive, with antipasti such as Caprese ($9.99) and Calamari Fritti ($10.99). Salads include the Caesar Salad ($11.99), Italian Chopped Salad ($11.99), and you can get Zuppa Del Giorno (soup of the day) at $3.99 a cup or $5.99 a bowl. There are seafood pastas including Lobster Ravioli ($17.99), Scallop Linguini ($16.99) or the Seafood Combination ($23.99).

Prima Piatti include such dishes as Ravioli ($12.99), Fettuccine Alfredo ($12.99), Penne alla Vodka ($14.99) and many more. Secondi piatti include Chicken Piccata ($16.99), Eggplant Parmigiana ($14.99) and Sirloin Steak ($28.99). And, of course, there is pizza, including Nonna's Special (sausage, fresh tomato, jalapeno and cilantro, $14.99), California BBQ Chicken ($14.99) and Bella Cucina's (eggplant, basil, garlic and mozzarella, $14.99).

This time around I was fortunate enough to sample Bella's Grilled King Salmon, Grilled Chicken Panini and the Chicken Tequila Fettucci.

Grilled King Salmon ($25): This elegant dish has the salmon, of course, but also grilled, skewered shrimp, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables surrounded with a creamy, lemon-butter caper sauce. The salmon was generous and perfectly grilled. It had a light and enticing seasoning as well. The shrimp were tender and just garlicky enough. The mashed potatoes were fantastic, made from red potatoes with some skin left in, like I like. The vegetables were lightly steamed and so crunchy-fresh - and the sauce was heaven: rich and sweet and tangy.

Grilled Chicken Panini ($8.99): This is grilled chicken breast, with sliced peppers, spring mix greens, mozzarella cheese and aioli sauce on homemade, toasted chibatta bread. It comes with a side salad or soup. It is a large sandwich and oh-so tasty. You get a satisfying chew, accompanied by the zest of the peppers, the cool of the greens and the richness of the cheese and sauce.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine ($14.99 dinner): This is a huge portion of fettuccine, tender grilled chicken, sliced red and green peppers and onions, sauteed in a tequila-lime cream sauce. This is rich and creamy and filling and satisfying and, well, just my kind of dinner. You know, the kind that makes you want to tuck it in for the night afterward. Yum.

Garlic rolls: And, of course, I had to have the garlic rolls along with. These were perfect. Not too much oil and not too much garlic. By themselves they are terrific, and dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, well, you could make a meal of them.

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