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Bella Vita Grille

Update 1/30/12: Bella Vita is closed.

In a word: Better than anything else that's been here.

The specs: #0674  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Magazine, Isthmus, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Popwilleatme, Ruppert Food Blog (12/27/10 and 1/4/11), 77 Square, A.V. Club, You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Much Ado About Madison; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Bella Vita on Urbanspoon

Latest Bella Vita news and reviews

Coffee and lemonadeCJ ate the kid's cheese pizza with a milk.
JM ate the Cuban with steak fries and a lemonade.
Jordan ate the canneloni with coffee, and split a tiramisu with CJ.
Nichole ate the Italian beef, a cup of soup, and the creme brulee with coffee.
The bill was about $14/person plus tip.
JM gave Bella Vita an A-, Jordan gave Bella Vita a B+, Nichole gave Bella Vita a B- (see our grading rubric).

Bella Vita is like Rebecca Black. Both stepped into a scene powered by social media, and were maybe a little too green, but driven by a dream. Their primary competition (for BV, the OG, for RB, JB) has a massive machine behind it.

Haters gonna hate, but you know what? There's plenty to like about Bella Vita.

We went on a crazy snow-globe day in April, which made warm, tomato-based foods all the more appealing.

Chicken soup and breadstickThe soup and sandwich combo featured a chicken soup with thick red broth and a wide assortment of vegetables including cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, corn, and carrots. The meat came in big cubes with grill marks and hadn't been simmered long.

The Italian beef sandwich was a different take on the classic and probably causes aneurisms in purists. Neither the high-class beef nor the Cuban (H&C #56) had been heated enough to melt their respective cheeses. The Cuban did have all the requisite ingredients (pork loin, ham - possibly Canadian bacon - and pickle planks) but the thick white commercial sourdough left something to be desired.

Italian beefCuban

CJ's pizza had a crackery crust, a dash of dried herbs and nice stretchy cheese. "I just think it's yummy!" was his verdict. The math guys in our party talked about the geometry of square pizza within earshot of our server, which elicited an excalamation of "you could have helped me with my calc project yesterday!"

PIzza

Jordan's canneloni:

"didn't try to do anything complicated, but is successful at what it does do - provide a satisfying and generous portion of well-seasoned meatiness and creaminess."

So basically, it satisficed.

Canneloni

We had room for two desserts. A creme brulee with ginger and coconut was not particularly smooth, but it had a nice citrus, more than ginger, flavor. The caramelization was expert: thick in the center and thin on the edges made it easy to clean out the bowl. The topping of diced almonds and toasted coconut added a lot. The tiramisu was cool and refreshing.

TiramisuCreme brulee

Maybe not Italian enough to really be an Italian restaurant, Bella Vita offers decent recipes of ethnic European (and a few other national) standards. Life may not quite be beautiful, but it is at least something to look forward to.

Comments

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my wife and I ate here several months ago. It is a nice neighborhood restaurant to have. The pasta was tasty and fresh. The bar was warm and inviting (with a health selection of local beers on tap). Reasonably priced as well. I will definitely be back.

I've been there a handful of times. The wild mushroom ravioli is a great dish - the other things I've had there have been pretty much "B" fare. Good, but not spectacular. I'd definitely go again, though, if someone suggested it. And you're right in that it's certainly better than anything else that's been in that space. Service is really good, too.

My wife and I went there on a GroupOn deal and really enjoyed it. This former N.Y. Italian really enjoyed their rendition of baked ziti, which was loaded with Italian sausage and bell peppers. Looking forward to hitting happy hour one night, $1 off tap beer and wine and half off appetizers. The west side needs more restaurants like Bella Vita.

We had a rather miserable meal at Bella Vita this evening. Margaritas, the drink special, barely had any liquor in them. The bread was crumbly and bland. The lemon pepper shrimp was almost too peppery to eat, and both they and the Jamaican jerk shrimp were lukewarm/cold. No steam greeted us from our baked potatoes. Everything was edible, but meh. We'll go back some time and try the pizza.

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