Bella Fortuna North - Lake Leelenau MI
Went to Bella Fortuna North two nights ago. The lovely patio beckoned to me the first time I had discovered the place and stopped in to look at the menu. It is perhaps the most inviting patio in the area. We arrived early on a sunny early evening hoping to enjoy our dinner on that patio but we were told that much of their staff had just returned to school and they were not able to use the patio that evening. OK, the interior is also among the nicest atmosphere-wise in the area. We were led through a large bar area that had the feel of an upscale sports bar – wood floor, wood paneling and nicely spaced tables. We were seated in very nice room – good size tables, well-spaced and covered with white tablecloths. Very comfortable chairs.
We were presented with a small glass of Prosecco compliments of the house along with the menu and wine list – nice touch. Having checked out the menu and wine list on line before arriving we were prepared to order. Our waiter, however, was intent upon describing most of the items on the regular menu. While specials need to be described (there were none) IMO regular menu items should only be described on request.
Before going on to the food, I will mention the good and not-so-good of the service. Pacing was good but the plates were brought by runners, once to the wrong table and later not knowing which person at the table got what. Check backs were just right. Enough time to taste and not so long as to be unable to correct problems in a timely manner – there were no problems that required correcting. Perhaps the thing I appreciated most was that they did not swoop down the clear plates the moment one person was finished. One of my biggest pet peeves with restaurants in America is not waiting until all diners are finished before clearing. Gold star on that. One last service ding – we were referred to as “you guys” several times, as in “you guys enjoy -----“ or “you guys want more water?” . Same for the table next to us.
FOOD –My wife had caprese. Superb heirloom tomatoes, red, green, yellow, purple and perfectly ripe and delicious. No surprise since right now is high season in northern Michigan. The “house-made” mozzarella was tough and seemed old. Not as good as what I get at Trader Joes and Costco. My arancini was the star of the night. Crisp on the outside, rich and creamy on the inside served on a flavorful tomato sauce.
For main my wife had duck. A “confit” leg and thigh with somewhat crispy skin served atop a fig, pear and raisin salsa/chutney-like preparation. Duck was tasty and not dried-out. The sauce had a nice pop and complimented the duck nicely. My ossobucco was dry and pretty much flavorless. The pureed sauce had not much flavor also. No sign of the pancetta and fennel mentioned on the menu. Come to think of it the shank looked so perfect it might have come from Stauffers???
Dessert was a pecan and pine nut torte with caramel sauce and hazelnut ice cream. Torte was tasty if a bit heavy and chewy. The ice cream was a very pleasant surprise. It tasted like hazelnuts, not amaretto.
Conclusion, food at Stella is better and more consistent.
WINE – The good - the all Tuscan wine list is very well-chosen and comprehensive with a good range of prices. There are some real gems if you know and like your Tuscan reds. The not-so-good - you must really like Tuscan wine and be very familiar with same because the staff is not knowledgeable enough to be of much help. Wine glasses were just ok and not befitting the setting, the rest of the restaurant or the wine list. The list misses out on the wonderful variety of Italian wine and, in particular, if you want red you pretty much have to like Sangiovese. Advantage Stella.
We had heard both positive and negative about BFN before going. Not knowing much about the sources I went with an open mind. As much as I really wanted to like it I must say that I was disappointed. I prefer Stella for the wine, the food and the service. I much prefer BFN for the setting and ambiance. Since it is new I will give it another try next year to see if they have worked out the kinks. I certainly hope so but for now I cannot recommend it.
P.S. I had written the above but not posted it when I was told the next day that the chef and much of the staff had walked-out a day or two before my visit. My source is very reliable. That would explain some of my disappointments. It also reaffirms my suggestion to wait until next year before giving it a try.
Thank you so much for your review. Maybe we'll skip this restaurant this year---especially since they entire staff just quit!
We love Italian and usually go to Stella but wanted to try something new. Perhaps we'll go to Funistrada in Maple City instead. We've been talking about going there for the past few years but keep missing it.