by Anne Vargas
It was hot. The thermometer registered 94 degrees. I was meeting a friend for lunch and it was my turn to choose the restaurant. It was the perfect kind of day for a cool, light lunch somewhere; perhaps a salad? Maybe at a restaurant offering tables outside in the shade under a tree?
That's what one little voice in my head said but another little voice kept whispering about the wonderful Ravioli that Giuseppe makes at Bella Italia, reminding me how good it is. That voice was louder and more persistent; that voice won.
Giuseppe Zappala and his wife Assunta opened Bella Italia eight years ago but there is a story about the years before that. Originally from the Lake Cuomo region of Italy, Giuseppe traveled to restaurants around the world demonstrating pasta machines. One of his trips brought him to the Eldorado here in Reno where the machine was purchased for La Strada, their Italian restaurant. A short time later Giuseppe was called back; would he consider coming to work at La Strada, as the chef?
He would and he did. It was there that he conceived his Mushroom Ravioli recipe for which that restaurant became famous. The dish is still served at La Strada, but Giuseppe now serves it at his own restaurant, which has become known in Reno for traditional Italian pasta dishes. For six of the past eight years he worked at La Strada, as well, while managing his own new enterprise; the man competes with the Energizer bunny!
The amazingly extensive menu features a host of delightful food choices, each freshly prepared. Using his own recipes and creating his own pasta, Giuseppe is the quintessential Italian chef, devoted to providing you with the real flavors and essence of Italian food. As their website states: "Italian cuisine is all about creating savory meals using the freshest ingredients and handmade pasta. It's no secret to anyone that dines with us that authenticity is something we strive for and excel at with every dish we create."
It is one of my favorite places, even on a hot summersalad kind of day and our lunch was wonderful. Especially the Ravioli; mushroom and artichoke are my favorites. The heavenly Tiramisu is also made there. Other popular favorites include Vitello Tonato, Bruschetta Toscana, Piccata di Vitello, Osso Buco, Risotto, Cannelloni. My husband is looking forward to trying the Chef's Surprise Menu: mixed appetizers, 3 kinds of pasta, 2 kinds of entrees, vegetables, dessert.
Incredibly, the restaurant is open six days a week for both lunch and dinner and on Sunday by reservation for private functions. They also offer cooking classes for parties of ten or more.
NOTE: Disclaimer: As always, I do not present myself as a food critic, merely a "foodie" meaning I like to eat. Preferably lunch with a friend where the food is good.