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Nov 9, 2007 09:29 PM

More Bella (Roma)

Heard about this place because of this previous thread here on the board.

I need to post as I was just there tonight. It started to fill up around 9 pm, which seems strangely European like everything else about Bella Roma, but from 7-9 while I was there I counted at most 4 tables of diners. This is a Friday night. And this is just wrong, since this is one of the gems I have been to in LA since moving here 4 years ago.

I will echo what has been said by others (I've yet to find a negative review of this place): the chef is from Rome, he gets involved personally in your dinner, bringing plates directly out of the kitchen himself at times, boning and serving fish, saucing things at tableside. In terms of chef fashions, he has a creative way with patterns, let's say, that would make Mario Batali look like a shy case. He is gregariously friendly in the best way. The food that I had tonight was unbelievable and just like eating at a trattoria in Rome. We had the "suppli" al telefono, which I would normally call arancini, risotto balls with tomato sauce and mozzarella; we had the stuffed calamari which was a special and beautiful, stuffed with crab meat (did not have the special soups, there were four of them tonight, pumpkin, minestrone, pasta fagioli, and stracciatella). We had two pastas: home-made tagliatelle with bolognese sauce and the bucatini amatriciana. My wife (Italian) noted how precisely they were flavored, by which she meant salted, which makes a huge difference (there was neither too much nor too little, it was perfect, and thus very Italian, since as my wife will tell you, the Italians are perfect and I do agree). We had the branzino, which came with polenta and vegetables and mashed potatos that had a touch of nutmeg in them, making them also seem extremely Italian (i.e., you see by now, perfect). You bring your own wine, they cork it for $4. We had the tiramisu and the cannoli for dessert, both were the best versions of these we have had in LA. In fact the tiramisu was one of the best I've ever had. In fact, I was just in NYC last week and bought a box of cannolis at Rocco's on Bleecker and ate most of all of them myself since I miss them so, and Bella Roma's cannoli was .... better. The waiter (who also seemed Italian, or at least was speaking Italian at times, completing the fantasy of this place) brought us some gelato for no reason whatsoever but that it was a beautiful gesture and ended our meal with that and espresso. As I got up to leave after paying, I looked inside the restaurant (most tables are outside on the sidewalk patio with heaters), and there was the chef, looking up from his cooking, and waving energetically at me.

This place is ... perfect.

I don't necessarily want to tell you all about it, really, since maybe then I won't be able to get a table there so easily.

But I also don't want to see this place with 4 tables full on a weekend night.

Go to Bella Roma. It isn't fancy, but it is like a trip to Rome.

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  1. I couldn't agree more. We were there Thursday night ( we go once a week) and it was packed. We brought two other couples and they agreed that the food at Cafe Bella Roma rivals any italian restaurant in the city, and is so fun due to the personal interest shown by the owners. Lunch is great there as well, by the way!

    1. I love this place and wish it got more recognition. We've also had several very nice meals there, and will continue to go back.

      1. Hip-Hip-Hooray for Bella Roma (on Robertson) and Amarone (on Sunset). LA has two new mid-city places serving really high-quality Italian at VERY reasonable prices. I wonder if Terroni will make it a hat-trick!

        1. I actually thought the place was pretty weak. Pasta Amatriciana, specialty of the house, tasted OK but was oversauced - certainly nothing like it would be in Rome. The Roman Fetuccine Alfredo was literally laughably bad - tasted like plain boiled noodles. The chocolate cornetti (similar to a croissant) was like a piece of rubber. I'm all for a true Roman place, but I'll take Buca and Angeli any day over this place.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Dylan

            The cornetti are for breakfast, which might explain why they weren't fresh if you ordered one at dinner. I had the Amatriciana, it wasn't oversauced when I ordered it but was perfect, the best version of this I've had in the States. An off night? Different expectations for the dish? The guy has cooked at Sora Lella and other Roman places, I think he knows how to make Amatriciana as it would be in Rome. Which was my experience of it. I look forward to returning and seeing if the quality remains consistent. Buca isn't Roman, but northern, and no one Italian is cooking anymore in the kitchen each time I've been there recently.

            1. re: Dylan

              Sorry Dylan, but i've eaten the Alfredo there as well as at the Original Alfredo's in Rome and it is excellent. It also isn't served on fettucine or like most Americans expect (americans douse cream in everything!): like Alfredo's in Rome, it is NOT made with creme or peas. I agree with George that the cornetti are for breakfast and probably wasn't right out of the oven if you went for dinner.

              1. re: Dylan

                I really wanted to like this place but was largely unimpressed, especially with the "just like Rome" reviews. I too had the amatriciana. Way oversauced. Nothing like what I had in Rome. Really, it wasn't much different from an average "American-Italian" spaghetti with meat sauce. The cauliflower soup was a very thin soup -- we were hoping for a thicker, heartier soup -- with decent but not wonderful flavor. The suppli, "only available here", were just large arancini that are available elsewhere. And, I didn't see a cacio e pepe or tripe dish anywhere either.

                The staff is very friendly. It's fine if you live around the corner but certainly not worth a drive. (Oh, and no liquor license yet, so bring your own wine.)