La Bella in Ghent - Norfolk VA
We went to this restaurant this evening, expecting a good meal after reading all the advertising and reviews. Ordered insalada caprese which came with lettuce, tomatoes,a tiny bit of basil and the most rubbery mozzarella we have ever eaten. We thought at first it was tofu. But the waitress assured us that they make it fresh every day and that they never know what it is going to taste like. Amazing. Clams linguini was good, the chicken piccata left a lot to be desired. Bread basket was non-existent - we got a slice of Italian bread on our bread plate. Too high of a price to pay for mediocre food.
We ate at La Bella in Ghent in April and although it did seem a little (only a little) pricy, my SO and I were very pleased with our dinners overall. They allowed us to sample a couple of wines before we settled on a bottle. The bread is amazing and we've gone back to their deli to purchase some for take home. Some might consider it neglectful, but I like that they left us alone to enjoy and didn't come around every five minutes to see if everything was okay. When they did come by to clear, ask questions, etc., they were pleasant and attentive. We did the prix fixe menu. It was refreshing to have smaller portion sizes for a change, and we were full buy the end of the meal anyway and took home doggie bags. The ceasar salad was very garlicky - which I loved. SO's tiramisu was fab. My canoli was okay. His lasgana was this best I've ever tasted. Fresh and light but meaty and filling all at once. I had eggplant parm, one of my favorites. I like a more Americanized version with cripser eggplant. Theirs was okay but I'll try something else next time. We definitely intend to return, partly because overall the food and service is good, and partly because the atmoshphere is really comfortable. Very nice not to be "turned" in 45 minutes or less.
Whatever issues La Bella in Ghent had in the past, they have been worked out! I highly recommend ordering any of the pastas that are made fresh that day as well as the calamari. Their homemade mozzarella is fantastic, too. Service can be kinda slow at times, but for homemade pasta...I don't mind waiting!
We just went there tonight. We arrived to a full, inviting and attractive restaurant and sat at the bar briefly before we got a table. The bar stools were very uncomfortable. We sat down and the waitress read the specials to us--lots of wine and food specials. I ordered a glass of Prosecco and it arrived warm. I sent it back (I haven't sent anything back in at least five years, but it was undrinkable). SO's pinot noir was okay. We ordered a bread dip for an appetizer and a caesar salad. The dip was pretty good but so garlicky that I'm still tasting garlic several hours later. The other problem is that the "bread boy" only came around once in a while so we had to wait several times for bread to go with the dip. The salad was okay, nothing spectacular but no major complaints.
SO had chicken parmesean for entree and it was good. Served with a side of pasta. I ordered one of the specials--salmon franchese and it was mediocre. The salmon did not appear to be fresh but it was edible. The green beans it was served with were also just okay (veggie of the day). Service was spotty. Waitress had a big table in the beginning and neglected us. I went without water (and the aforementioned bread) for quite a while. She also seemed to get annoyed and argued with me when I sent the Prosecco back.
I was very suprised when I got the bill and it was $75. The Prosecco was taken off and my SO had two drinks (around $6 each). What I found interesting is that my salmon was 25.99--it was a special--she failed to read off the prices when she told us about the specials. This was at least 10 dollars more than most of their entrees. I have no problem spending money on a nice meal, but honestly I felt somewhat taken advantage of at this point. Especially b/c it was not good.
Let me be fair. This restaurant just opened and it is obvious they are still working things out. The waitress was obviously a novice and could get better. They have locations in Va Beach and I hear they are wonderful. I did think it was quite pricey for what we got.
I can't imagine that I will go back but I encourage others to try it. I am still looking for a good italian place in this area!!!!
With all due respect to the DiCarlo family, we have patronized La Bella Italia for 10 years. It is still my favorite Italian restaurant in Virginia Beach but...the complaints alsky mentions are all valid. The service in the other two locations is usually spotty also, sometimes good...sometimes bad...to the point of being unacceptable. We usually tell the kids to eat a little something before we go because dinner meals usually take a long time to come to the table. I say dinner because lunch time is better. They do cook to order and that adds to the wait. We never order off the blackboard because we've noticed the enormous difference in prices from the regular menu items. Prices are never mentioned but then again its not a comfortable question for me so I don't ask either so that's my problem. Some bread servers are more generous and give the kids 2 pieces but I can't imagine that is encouraged. We avoid going on week-ends and holidays when even a reservation doesn't guarantee prompt service. We stay away from Mom Anna's location during the summer because its near the oceanfront and filled with vacationers. We work around issues because the food is great 99% of the time. We even held both our children's First Communion dinners there. My "off-the-boat" family loves going there when they visit us.
After saying all that, we're lucky that daughter Victoria opened a place near my home so we get the benefit of their great food but we usually get take-out now just because its easier than dealing with the crowds and the service. I think the family excels in the usual Italian fare and some of the so-so food problems come with trying out some of the more a-typical dishes. Their eggplant parmiggiano is my favorite ever...I can't order it anywhere else because its never as good and I am not a big eggplant fan.
I suggest you give the Norforlk La Bella another try. People who have a bad experience the first time tend to write this place off from the beginning but people who generally have a good experience keep going back. I read that the Norfolk location is being run by Anna's son. He has been working with Mom for a long time. I'm sure there is a great incentive to make his location successful.