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Oct 7, 2009 09:36 AM

Fresno: Bella Pasta II

My wife, aka the lovely Sturdy Wench, and I have dined twice at Bella Pasta II on Cedar and Herndon in Fresno.

Fabian and Carmela, the outgoing and friendly owner and his wife, came by and introduced themselves to us that first night. We enjoyed meeting them and we talked for almost 20 minutes about the restaurant, the restaurant business, pasta, cooking, recipes, et al.

The first night I had the Spaghetti Della Mamma ($16.95) - "Pasta with homemade meatballs & meat sauce." (A) The next night was the Pappardelle Campagnola ($17.95) - "Ribbon pasta served with tender chicken breast, fresh mushrooms, & peas in a light tomato sauce." (A)

The SW had Lasagna Al Ragu ($16.95) - "Lasagna with homemade meat sauce" (A) and then next night was Polenta Con Salsiccia E Funghi ($17.95) - "Northern Italian cornmeal, robust sausage, mushroom & tomato sauce." (A+)

Both dishes were outstanding. The pastas were perfectly cooked and the food was served hot and in a reasonable time. The food tasted home-made, never the jarring note of a can or Sysco food pack. The sauces are all made in-house, only the pasta and bread are sourced. The pasta is from Sam's Italian Deli in Fresno. The first time I was there I expected a typical DiCicco's red sauced slab of pasta and meat. Instead, the dishes had a dark, much less tomato-heavy southern Italian sauce, which did not overwhelm the pasta. Neither dish was sauce-heavy. Portions were generous. We had take home after each dinner.

The only downside I can think of, and I have to really reach for this one, was the sparse amount of peas in the pappardelle. I would have preferred more than just the spoonful I saw. This is like complaining Sophia Loren has ugly toes.

The SW loved her dishes. The polenta was of a different texture than what she was expecting, so it took a few bites for her to get comfortable with it, but she did so easily.

The flavors were rich, robust, mildly earthy, and highlighted meat more than tomatoes. The meatballs were golf ball-sized, light and tasty.

The wait staff was friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and seemed truly interested in making sure you were having the best time you could there.

Special mention for the pappardelle. This twisty, curling ribbon pasta was wonderfully al dente, offering just enough resistance to make eating it a pleasure.

The ambiance is intimate with darker, richer colors predominating. Large, colorful posters in Italian for Italian foods and services line the walls. Seating is armless wooden chairs and banquettes. Bella Pasta offers a full bar.

Bella Pasta is the northern Fresno/Clovis answer to "Where can I get some great Italian food?" I recommend it highly.

Bella Pasta II
7033 N Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA 93720

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  1. Very nice review Ken. I still have to try original Bella Pasta. Bella Pasta II sounds delicious and is now on my list of places to try. I'm curious how the two compare.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jeff Avis

      Alas, the original is no longer around (so far as I know).

      Ken, glad you had a good experience. maybe I'll go back and try it again. In the past, my experiences were not that good.

      1. re: tavmark

        We're glad that you had a great meal at Bella Pasta, Ken. Our experience matches Tavmark's. During our first visit, one of our group had a chunk of onion in the bottom of their glass of red wine (we've heard of marinating onions, but this was ridiculous). At our next visit, the red sauce was burnt, which pretty much ruined the dishes for a couple of us.

        We agree that the portions are very large. But, our experience is that the portions don't justify the high prices and miscues we've seen.

        1. re: Lunch Critics

          If I received a glass of wine with an onion in it--and I hadn't requested it--I would have the same reaction as you.

          For some bizarre reason, I tend to have the opposite experiences of most people. For example: 'Hounds raved about Don Fernando's on Auberry Rd. When the Sturdy Wench and I ate dinner there, the food was so bad we sent it back.

          Perhaps Bella Pasta has a new chef or kitchen manager?