Has anyone tried this place yet? It's a ways out for me, but wondering what the scoop is and whether or not it's worth the drive.
I have only been once (about three weeks ago), but I did not think it was worth the drive. For appetizers we had the fritto misto and the pastel formaggio, both of which were very good. However, I had a filet in a Barolo reduction that was one of the evening's specials, and it was very overcooked (ordered medium rare and got medium well) and had a rather odd flavor.
I don't know how far you have to drive (I live in Homewood), but I suspect you have better options closer to home.
My wife and I had dinner this past Saturday night at Bellini’s. The restaurant is quite attractive, and we found the service to be generally very good. For our appetizer, we split an order of Oysters Bellini, a half-dozen oysters topped with a mixture of shallots, pancetta, spinach and Bechamel sauce, then baked. This was very good, as was the bread that appeared to have coame right out of the oven (although it also arrived a few minutes after that at the table behind my wife, where the party came in 5 or 10 minutes after us).
Unfortunately, there were a couple of problems that really took away from all of the good things I’ve mentioned. Major among these was our entrees. We both decided to order the linguini and meat balls in Marinara sauce because we had heard that their meat balls were excellent, and we weren’t in the mood for anything real rich or complex. The meat balls were, indeed, excellent, but the Marinara sauce was another thing altogether – I’ve had Fra Diavolo sauce that wasn’t that peppery! I was literally shocked at how spicy it was. It also had something a little odd in the taste that I couldn’t put my finger on – when I asked my wife if she noticed it, she said that all she could taste was the pepper.
The other problem was with the wait time for the courses. Although we arrived at about 6:05, when there were only about 3 or 4 other tables occupied, we waited about 10 minutes after ordering for our bread and wine to arrive, at least another 10 minutes for our appetizer and at least 15-20 minutes after we finished our appetizer before we got our entrees. By the time we left it was nearly 7:30, the restaurant was almost full, and I could tell that people were waiting MUCH longer than we had. (We decided not to order coffee or dessert because we wanted to get home before midnight.) If that is the normal situation in the kitchen, they have problems.
I called the place on Monday to tell the chef/owner about the Marinara sauce problem. His reponse was that his Marinara sauce used only a very small quntity of red pepper, so this was definitely an aberration, and we shouldn't be deterred from ordering it again. He also said he would certainly discuss our experience with his line cooks to see if something had happened and get back to me. He hasn't as of this morning, so I don't expect I'll ever here from him.
Given our experience, the number of good Italian restaurants in this town, and the fact that Bellini's is not one of the cheaper ones, we won't be going back.
Tried Bellini's with my wife last night. She had the "crispy eggplant" and I had a veal chop topped with rubbery cheese (bad) and mushrooms (good). My wife wasn't all that impressed with the eggplant. It was cut quite thick, not very "crispy", and stacked. It came with a marinara sauce that I thought was quite good (not too peppery as noted by another poster).
The bread was delicious, served with a very good EVOO that had just the right touch of rosemary.
My entree came with farfalle that was extremely oversalted. This was rapidly fixed for me. They use a seasoning mixture, however, so less salt equalled less overall seasoning and the "new" pasta was pretty flat/tasteless, though cooked perfectly. My veal chop was wonderful at the edges, but absolutely raw near the bone. I like rare steak. A bite near the bone in this case nearly made me gag.
We had a nice Franciscan Cabernet which was reasonably priced given last night's 25% off all bottles (excluding reserves) pricing.
For dessert we tried the tiramisu, italian brownie, and bread pudding. The bread pudding and tiramisu were really excellent. The Italian brownie, well, sucked. It was dominated by a pretty bland layering of mascarpone. The chocolate parts were flourless, crumbly, and dryish. Nothing like a brownie, IMHO. I'd advise a different name if they are going to continue to serve this disaster. I had decaf coffee with my dessert that was very disappointing. Should have ordered a regular coffee of cappuccino. My bad.
The service was really excellent. Attentive and concerned. My only complaint is that we were seated right next to the shelving where the wine glasses were stored and we had clanging glassware next to our heads the whole time. No other complaints in the service department, however.
I think we'll try this place again. True (as noted by others) it's not cheap, but we don't have many "nice" restaurants in our area (Indian Springs/Pelham/119 area). There were certainly some disappointments, but overall I think it's a nicer experience than some Italian alternatives in our neighborhood like Amore on 280 or Joe's (Alabaster).