When most Rhode Islanders want Italian food, they usually venture to Federal Hill. But what if I told you that you could get the same type of quality and authenticity at an Italian restaurant in Burrillville. Yes, you read it right…Burrillville. I’ll be honest, I can probably count on one hand how many times I have driven through this quiet, rural town. It’s a place I rarely go because, frankly, there isn’t much there. Well, that’s how I felt until I discovered Bella, a hidden gem that’s definitely worth driving to.
Executive Chef and Owner Gio Calapai has created a menu full of authentic Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist. His father, the original owner of Blue Grotto, taught him the importance of staying true to traditional Italian fare. While they still offer classic dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana and Pasta Bolognese, my favorite part about Bella is the creative spin that Chef Gio has added throughout the menu. It’s like the best of both worlds to satisfy any appetite.
For our first appetizer, we ordered the Mozzarella Napoleon (pictured above). This colossal tower of tomato and cheese was stacked over 6 inches high and surrounded by a sea of prosciutto. It was pierced by a sprig of rosemary and a skewer of shrimp on top. This stunning presentation will make jaws drop at nearby tables and leave others wishing they ordered the same. Not to mention, the mozzarella is made in house daily for superb freshness and quality. So don’t be “one of the envious spectators”, order it for yourself!
These mushrooms were stuffed with a moist snow crab meat stuffing and drenched in a house garlic butter sauce. A perfect balance of flavors. These addicting little caps are a great start to any meal.
All entrees are accompanied by a deep bowl of salad with a selection of housemade dressings. We opted for the Honey-Sherry which has the perfect amount of sweet and tang. It paired exceptionally well with all the ingredients in the salad. In fact, it would taste amazing as a vegetable dip. I should have taken some to-go!
The veal is thinly pounded and pan fried in a cognac cream sauce and mixed with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms. The veal was incredibly tender and had a very delicate texture. The cognac cream sauce was a bit on the sweeter side, but complemented all of the other ingredients. This dish is a great example of how Chef Gio takes a traditional cream sauce and elevates it to another level with the use of cognac for a nice twist.
This dish sounded intriguing on the menu, but I pictured it differently. I imagined it to be tossed in a creamier sauce like the Veal Courvoursier rather than a clear sauce. It was served with five jumbo shrimp which were egg dipped and pan fried, then finished in a butter shallot, fresh orange, Gran Marnier, triple sec sauce. Overall, it tasted like it was missing something to tie all of the ingredients together. The orange slices were unexpected and a bit unusual with linguini. I understand the oranges were meant to bring out the flavor in the Gran Marnier, but perhaps adding orange zest to the sauce would have been a more effective use of the ingredient. All in all, it has potential to be a very good dish with a few easy changes.
For dessert, we ordered the Limoncello Mascarpone Cake. The cake itself was fluffy and moist. It was soaked in Limoncello and you could definitely taste the tart, citrus flavor. I found it to be refreshing and surprisingly light – which is ideal after any heavy, starchy Italian dinner.
I may have never had a reason to visit Burrillville before, but now I definitely do. I implore you to hop in your car and take a ride to Bella Restaurant which is just a few miles down the road from Bryant College. Everything from the bread, the butter, the salad dressing, the mozzarella, you name it – is HOMEMADE – and you can taste the difference. Chef Gio doesn’t take any shortcuts when it comes to quality. Even the service was stellar. My server, Diego, was friendly, personable, attentive and extremely knowledgeable about the menu.
So whether you are with family or friends, you should visit Bella next time you are craving some Italian food. It’s your chance to be” in the know” and try this hidden gem for yourself!