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Aug 17, 2007 07:25 PM

Ristorante Bellissimo

Chef Giovanni Cocciante has moved downtown. He has relocated Andiamo from Rutland Drive to 5th Street and Congress and renamed his restaurant "Bellissimo." I had heard good things, so I had to see for myself.
The restaurant is next door to Kenichi on 5th the old "Noodle-ism" building. They don't yet have their liquor license, so it is currently BYOB. There are autographed photos from Presidents and athletes. Chef says the late Ladybird used to dine with him once a week before she passed.
We began the evening with a shaved fennel salad topped with toasted walnuts and goat cheese and dressed with truffle oil. It was balanced and fresh. A great first course.
Next came giant sea scallops, sauteed in a brown butter and dressed with artichoke hearts. They were rich and buttery with a slight breadcrumb crust. Perfect.
At this point, Chef came out to check on our satisfaction with the meal. He brought with him a freshly made Zabaglione for us to taste. (yum!)
When we confessed we were having trouble making our decisions on entrees, he asked us what we were in the mood for. She said pasta and I said veal. Chef told us he was going to make us each a dish.
My veal was AMAZING! Chef Giovanni took porcini mushrooms, sauteed them in a brandy cream sauce and served them with tender scallopini veal. The result was an earthy, rich, fork-tender dish served with sweet buttered carrots and steamed green beans. Incredible!
My lovely date had housemade fettucine served with prawns, scallops and lobster claw meat in a saffron cream sauce. You could see the strands of saffron in the sauce! No skimping on this expensive herb. It was fantastic.
For dessert we shared lemon gelato and homemade tiramisu. Chef came to sit with us and offered free digestifs as we enjoyed our desserts. While I marveled over the tiramisu, he explained to me the process of creating this complicated dessert. Along with selecting the ideal bean and perfecting the brewing process for the espresso in which to dip the ladyfingers, he also hand whips the marscapone with egg whites to create a towering, fluffy masterpiece. It has been years since I have had real italian tiramisu. This is it.
In the end, Chef Giovanni and his wife Miriam work hard to make you feel like family. The service is five-star. Chef runs a tight ship. His customers and their experience are most important.
I encourage all Chowhounds to visit Ristorante Bellissimo and see if it doesn't become one of your Austin favorites!

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  1. Does an online menu for this restaurant exist by any chance?

    3 Replies
      1. re: curlykerry

        Hey - there is a website with menu:

        It looks, as curlykerry said, like he reopened his version of Andiamo - but with higher prices, no doubt due to a whopping increase in rent for the kind downtown location. Andiamo left me underwhelmed, and even before the chef left, didn't get a whole lotta love on this board, although here is a link to an appreciation of the fennel salad and veal w/ porcini.

        I will probably try it for lunch one of these days, and will anxiously await any other reports!

        1. re: saticoy

          MMM.. that fennel salad *is* delicious. I haven't been there in over a year (and agree on the sad state of the entrees) - but the mere description of it made me salivate.

    1. our experience was OK. you know, for the quality of restaurant they are trying to live up to here, they REALLY need to ditch the asian decor and get the interior updated--by a professional. atmosphere scores a 3 out of 10, i'm afraid. get rid of the pastry-case opening into the kitchen with the bright flourescent lights and annoying phone ringing, please! dinner was respectable. after hearing how great the tiramisou was, we opted to have some... to me it tasted exactly like cool whip dusted with nestle's quick. i kid you not!

      1. A friend and i tried this restaurant today for lunch based on good reviews and a recent article in the Statesman. I cannot beleive anyone would give this place a good review--it was horrible. I took one bite and gagged. Ordered the shrimp in "white wine sauce" and it tasted like a brown gravy you would get on a bad chicken fried steak at a cafeteria. The shrimp was underdone, the crab it was stuffed with was tasteless and obviously canned by the texture, and the prosciutto seriously may have been spoiled. It was honestly a scary experience. They never turned any lights on and the rugs inside were filthy. It looked ominously like a place that is about to be shut down... what a waste of money. We had to head straight to another restaurant to buy a 2nd lunch!

        1 Reply
        1. re: rocky1974

          Rocky, I didn't know the history, but I ate at Andiamo yesterday, and apparently the Bellissimo chef left his "white wine sauce" recipe behind at Andiamo and they're still making it... badly. I ordered the Pollo Piemontese (chicken breasts, prosciutto, fontina, white wine sauce). I made my hubby taste the white wine sauce because I thought it tasted like brown roast beef gravy. It was just coincindence I was out here on CH doing a search for Tiramisu today and ran across your review, so I had to share a sympathetic laugh at your description of bad cafeteria CFS gravy. Oh, and when the waiter brought our friend's lasagna special out, our friend said it "looks like Stauffer's".

        2. I work downtown and have eaten at Bellissimo for lunch twice in the last two weeks. The pollo gorgonzola is SPECTACULAR. One of the best sauces I've had in Austin. Bread is unusually good there too. Today I had the wrapped shrimp and it was very salty and not that great, won't order it again. I like the place for lunch, but until they upgrade the d├ęcor I agree that it's probably not a great "nice" dinner option. Could be much nicer, the menu is solid and the food is good.

          In good news, Giovanni (owner) was there today and said they are getting rid of the bamboo. No news on the display case at the front.

          1. By the way, I walked by this place today on my way to a roast beef hoagie at Hog Island and there was a note on the door saying that they are moving locations. There's a phone number posted as well, for those seeking more info.