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Dedham/Randolph dinner: Isabella or Caffe Bella?

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Meeting a friend for an early, midweek dinner. Looking for good food, good value, ambience conducive to girl talk, as we have a lot to catch up on.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I've never been to Caffe Bella but went to Isabella Saturday night with my husband for an early dinner before catching a flick at the theater next door. This was our second time there and we used a Groupon that let us split an appetizer and dessert but order separate entrees. We had a crab cake app that consisted of what looked like two small arancini over a bed of tasty but a tad too creamy celery root slaw. The crab cakes ($13) were breaded and fried very well and were full of crabby flavor without a lot of filler. My entree was the fresh pasta with lobster meat, mushrooms, and peas ($25), which delivered what it promised. The lobster meat was claw meat and not at all rubbery, and the mushrooms were delicious. The pasta had good chew. My husband had seared scallops (I think it was about the same price as the pasta) with a balsamic glaze, which he really enjoyed. The dish also included a ton of arugula (too much for him to finish) and sautéed broccoli rabe. We split the chocolate cake with ice cream and caramel sauce (around $8), which was basically a popover-shaped brownie and satisfied our sweet tooth. Overall, we decided the food was above average (many people were ordering the ribeye special that night, which looked incredible) but a bit too pricey for us to visit more often. We lucked out by getting one of the last tables without a reservation, but when we left at 7, there was a line out the door. Noise level was on the high side, but I didn't feel like I had to shout to be heard. I think they have a different, less expensive bar menu, and the bar seemed bustling as well. Excellent service and nice wine list. If you end up there, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Isabella is one of my parents' favourite restaurants. I've been a few times and it's quite good: I wouldn't make the trip to Dedham just to go there, but if I were in the area I'd happily go back.

      1. I've been to Bella and enjoyed it. The tables are a liitle close together but it has a great bar.

        1. Cafe Bella has excelent food, really good pizzas and better than average wine and bar service. As mentioned, space is tight, but you won't notice one you start in on the food.

          Two problems. Go early as the place gets jammed. They are very good at serving up a healthy portion of attitude.

          1 Reply
          1. re: CocoDan

            Yes, the Bella staff can have attitude. Mostly I think because
            most of the clients are repeat and like the banter.

          2. I always thought that Cafe Bella's staff's attitude was the result of the obnoxious, south shore nouveaux riche asshats that are their clientele. I've seen some patrons there put on quite a show over the years.

            The food is great, and if you are nice to the staff, they are wonderful and accommodating.

            1 Reply
            1. re: aregularjoe

              I guess that is another way of looking at it.

            2. Isabella is more imaginative and you can walk around the neighborhood afterward and get coffee @ Mocha Java or ice cream @ Ron's or see a movie next door @ Dedham community.

              1. Just posting on this thread is like looking into the perfect storm. Caffe Bella, Isabella, and me bellachefa. I have no affiliation with either restaurant, although my screen name once made someone curious which is completely understandable!

                I've been to Isabella a few times. I've been to CaffeBella many dozens of times over the years. Although we are just a few times a year visitors, we are bar rats there, and even being away for 6 months will often recognize people and pick up where we left off. This is not to say it's clickish, only that there is a lively bar scene in which other customers often engage each other in friendly banter. Now we often order a dozen oysters, as they take their oysters and proper shucking and temp very seriously, and we have never had a bad bi-valve. We then usually share an app and share an entree. We never split as there is no need for additional sides.

                The attitude comment surprises me, as we have been patrons for many years. The comment about the clienteile made me laugh as we have seen more then one working party girl and loud group over the years. They have always drawn an eclectic south shore crowd. I do think either at the bar or at a table, midweek early, you can be social, yet still have a private conversation under the din of the room. To me there is nothing worse then trying to catch up when you know the couple sitting next to you can and is listening to every word you say.

                Isabella just never inspired us as a regular spot. It is a fine restaurant, and may be better to your liking.