Monday, May 2, 2011

Bella Brava, St. Petersburg, FL

Bella Brava is one of those places I've been hearing positive buzz about for quite some time, but had somehow never managed to check it out until a couple of weeks ago.  We hopped the pond last week for what was probably the last bearable afternoon (temperature-wise) for al fresco dining before next October.  Bella Brava boasts an attractive European-style sidewalk dining area as well as a charming interior.  There were a couple of missteps with our server, but all was forgiven when she mentioned that she was new because she definitely tried hard to please...everyone's entitled to a learning curve. 

First off...I really loved the 9 oz. pour option available with the wines by the glass.  I was able to enjoy a couple of  "big" glasses of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay for $13.69 apiece which kept me from running our server ragged.  Who actually pours themselves a 6 oz. glass of wine???  That's just enough to make me angry.  :p

We started with the Gorgonzola Fonduta (which was Warm Sherry Gorgonzola Dip, Scallions and House Made Potato Chips).  OMG.  Every aspect of this starter was perfection.  If I could come up with any complaint whatsoever, it might have been that this appetizer was too large.  At $6.99, it was almost a meal in itself.  Hot, crispy chips...warm, tangy, cheesy goodness...*thud*.

The Carpaccio was equally impressive and was probably some of the best I've ever had.  Described as "Pepper Seared Center Cut Filet, Parmesan, Fried Capers, Arugula and Lemon Infused Olive Oil", it was almost otherworldly in its deliciousness.  I particularly liked the lemon (as opposed to vinegar) in the olive lent an indescribable freshness to this dish.  Someone gets bonus points for being generous with the capers, too.

Some delightful, crispy and hot-from-the-oven bread showed up at about the same time:

Underdog's entree of Ravioli Genovese (Goat Cheese, Spinach and Pine Nut Ravioli with Pesto Cream and Oven Dried Tomatoes) made me want to thump him over the head and steal it from him.  This was a FABULOUS pasta dish, and I don't ordinarly wax overly enthusiastic about pasta.  The pesto sauce was to die for and the toasty pine nuts, perfectly cooked pasta and fresh spinach were an amazing combo.  We both loved it.

As much as I hate to report that an otherwise wonderful dining experience ended on a sour note, I'm afraid I must.  My Gnocchi Rosa (Fresh Potato Gnocchi, Creamy Pomodora Rosa Sauce and Goat Cheese) disappointed.  Okay, let me rephrase that.  It kind of sucked.  The sauce had potential, but the gnocchi were so overcooked and gummy that they actually stuck to my teeth.  It was very unpleasant and I left the entree virtually untouched (not to worry, though...I stole enough Ravioli Genovese samples from UD's plate that I avoided any danger of dropping a pants size).

Overall, this was a nice dining experience.  I'll forgive the gnocchi travesty because we were there at a weird time of day...late afternoon, well after lunch but just before the dinner hour.  We didn't order dessert because 1). Nothing on the menu really inspired us, and 2). Portions were quite generous and we really weren't hungry anymore after all  that food (even with only a few bites of the gnocchi being taken).  We'll probably hit you again sometime, Bella Brava.

Bella Brava on Urbanspoon

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