Old Country Cuisine and…Plenty of It
Huge portions + friendly service + good prices = a satisfying dining experience
At bella vita, one thing is for sure: No one leaves hungry. Like a loving, indulgent Italian-American grandmother, it gives us what we want—and lots of it. The cuisine here isn’t high art—in fact, sometimes it is downright mediocre—yet it manages to leave diners content. And, considering the mammoth portions, the price is right.
On our first visit, a Friday evening, the host led us to a table on the outside patio, enclosed
in a white tent and overlooking a Charlie Brown’s restaurant and a Verizon shop. The view and background noise—a clashing medley of honking horns and The Godfather theme song—were anything but romantic. Still, we were seduced by Bella Vita’s friendly service. The staff immediately brought us a basket of warm bread and olive oil gussied up with dried herbs.
And then it began—the Deluge of Dishes, the Cavalcade of Carbs. From the extensive menu, we had innocently selected eggplant rollatini, tortellini torino and veal piccata—not aware of the abundance that was to come. The eggplant, two deep-fried torpedoes covered in tomato sauce, was a bit bland and soggy. The industrial-sized veal was standard—the meat could have been more tender, and the sauce could have used additional lemon juice and capers. However, the accompanying piped mashed potatoes were elegant, and who can argue with not having to cook dinner for two more nights? There would be plenty of leftovers. The tortellini, almost pouring out of a colossal bowl, were a cut above. The perfectly al dente pasta, rich with the salt of prosciutto, the earthiness of mushrooms and the sweetness of onions, was blanketed in a creamy pink vodka sauce and garnished with parsley.
After devouring what we could, we warily approached the dessert menu and opted for what would turn out to be delicious deep-fried, Nutella-filled chocolate hazelnut ravioli sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. We also chose homemade tiramisu, which disap-pointed—too much bland marscapone, too few ladyfingers and not enough espresso. Still, we left with heaping doggie bags and full stomachs.
A couple of weeks later, we had lunch inside, surrounded by mustard-yellow walls and framed paintings. We began with the cold antipasto platter. The artful presentation of heaping rosettes of proscuitto, cheese and marinated vegetables pleasantly surprised us, as did the rich and delicious penne al forno, pasta covered with tomato sauce and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. The tortellini in brodo (chicken broth with delicate Parmigiano-laced meat dumplings) also impressed us—it couldn’t have been more flavorful.
However, tomato-sauced meat and seafood dishes disappointed. The sauces for the chicken pizzaiola and scungilli marinara tasted a bit canned, and the tomato sauce for the chicken dish, beefed up with onions, mushrooms and peppers, overwhelmed the meat beneath. We were in for another novelty, though: a potato croquette, crispy and sweet with a creamy interior oozing of cheese—the spud version of a jelly-filled doughnut.
Dessert was another high point. Bella Vita certainly shines with its Italian (ricotta) cheesecake, a moist, complex, not-too-sweet confection with a hint of almond flavor. Also compelling is the garnet-hued poached pear with Marsala-kissed lemon yellow zabaglione.
All in all, Bella Vita is a crowd-pleasing experience, the type of place to turn to when you’re tired of adhering to a low-carb diet, when your parents are in town or when your kids are howling for pasta. I’ll drink to having a kind of Italian-American grandma in Westchester County.
1744 East Main St., Mohegan Lake
Lunch, Mon. to Fri. 11 am-3 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Thurs. 3-10 pm, Fri. 3-11 pm, Sat. 12-11 pm, Sun. 12-9 pm