Because this would be the first dinner I’ve had with my favorite newly-engaged duo, Megan and Hung, I wanted this meal to be extra special. Since opening a couple of years ago, I’ve been eager to dine at Bellavitae, the quiet Italian in the West Village.
When I arrived for our 8:15pm reservation, Megan and Hung were already seated. After hugs and congratulatory greetings were given, I plopped down at our table and made a quick survey of the restaurant’s atmosphere. Dim lighting, warm Tuscan yellow walls, planked hardwood floors, mahogany tables and chairs and a kitchen equipped with a visible brick oven truly made for an intimate setting.
As our drinks arrived, Hung looked at Megan and said, “Should we ask her?” As I looked up from studying the menu, Megan asked me if I would be one of her bridesmaids. “Yes! Of course I will. I’m so honored and flattered. Thank you both so much for including me!” After toasting, the waiter approached to take our meal orders. To begin, we chose to split the Arancini Siciliani and the Sformatino di Melanzane. As entrees, Hung ordered cod, Megan went with pasta and I chose the Pappardelle con Sugo di Agnello.
Freshly baked foccacia bread and olive oil arrived just before our appetizers. Each of us took one of the four Arancini Siciliani (fried risotto balls with tomato, provolone and prosciutto). What looked like a fried golden brown golf ball on the outside gave way to the most flavorful savory interior. Tightly packed tomato risotto was enveloped in gooey melted provolone cheese. Though I didn’t see much proscuitto, the arancini had the perfect balance of flavor, thus confirming the presence of the salty pork. While each bite was slightly lukewarm, I was very pleased with this dish. The Sformatino di Melanzane (layers of baby eggplant, mozzarella and tomato sauce) arrived in a small terra cotta bowl that had come directly from the brick oven. Bubbling tomato sauce and perfectly melted mozzarella hugged the tender stacked eggplant. Our forks played food hockey as we fought for the last bite.
Shortly after our finishing our appetizers, our entrees arrived. Ribbons of perfectly cooked pappardelle pasta noodles sat beneath a hearty braised lamb ragu. Similar to, but not as sweet as, a traditional Bolognese sauce, I found the tender pieces of meat to be a welcome substitution for what is typically made with beef. The pasta to sauce ratio was perfectly balanced.
Between the great company, food, service, and atmosphere, my experience at Bellavitae was memorable and I would definitely return in the future. Congratulations to the happy couple and many thanks for including me in the biggest day of your lives!