In A Beautiful Kitchen
La Bella Cucina
69-61 Juniper Blvd. South, Middle Village
Hours: Mon–Thu 11 am to 10 pm; Fri-Sat 11 am to 1 pm; Sun 11 am to 10:30 pm
Credit Cards: All
Parking: Valet / Street
On the slightly darkened streets of Juniper Boulevard South, La Bella Cucina stands out among the row of houses. On approach, the bright lights are a simple welcome to old-fashioned Italy, with a new world twist.
Simply put, Middle Village has a gem. The dimly lit dining room and soft music, which never competed with conversation, speaks of romance.
The tables where accented with pristine white and burgundy tablecloths and the unoccupied ones were adorned with a vase of faux flowers. When seated you are given two menus – one for drinks, which is rife with cocktails, and wine; the other has all the Italian staples. There is something for everyone.
I started out with a smooth and full-bodied pinot noir 2009 and my date, ever the ruffian, went with the Blue Moon with a delicate slice of orange.
As someone who is totally in love with carbohydrates, the fresh oven-baked pizza bread woke up my dormant taste buds. It was followed by warm crescent rolls stuffed with pepperoni and onions.
As a lover of anything creamy, cheesy or doughy, I omitted lunch to be ready for the food onslaught. I was still ill-prepared for the deluge.
After my companion and I had almost filled up on rolls, Lucy, one of our servers suggested the pear salad. I was a bit skeptical, but I’m on a mission to indulge my palate in food adventures, so I gave it a whirl. The dish is comprised of marinated pears in red wine and honey, caramelized walnuts, vinaigrette and gorgonzola cheese on a bed of mesclun greens. It was refreshing and delicate.
A hot antipasto platter loaded with eggplant parmesan, stuffed mushrooms, grilled shrimp, stuffed clams and mushrooms was replaced in its stead. I had one issue with the dish – I wanted more clams, but was too afraid to ask for seconds. Besides, I would soon be chomping down on lobster ravioli, striped sea bass and sautéed shrimp.
If you read carefully, you would revert to the sentence where I expressed openly and honestly my love for foods creamy, cheesy and doughy. The lobster ravioli was all of the above. The best part was three hidden shrimp I unearthed in the sauce.
That was followed by a nicely cooked striped bass in a tomato-based sauce and adorned with sautéed shrimp.
For me, the piece de resistance was the rib-eye steak smothered in a mushroom cream sauce. It was accompanied by roasted potatoes and green beans.
We slowly carved our way into the bass and steak. Knowing dessert was only minutes away we thought better of finishing the meal.
Dessert was a welcomed surprise. First, we introduced our palates to a beautifully arranged martini glass loaded to the rim with fruit bathed in a healthy splash of Grand Marnier, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a lady finger. As we sipped the sweet liquor, I thought here is a perfect way to end a delightful meal.
It was not over.
Lucy brought out a slice of ricotta cheesecake, which was accented by a splotch of raspberry and chocolate syrup.
This was the perfect end to an ideal evening. Good conversation, good food. What else can you ask for?