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Monday, August 05, 2013


Bella Vita: One of the Valley's Best Restaurants

Bella Vita is a marvelous Italian restaurant in the Copper Leaf Hotel in downtown Appleton, across from the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel (300 West College Avenue). I went there for my first time tonight in a group of four people, taking advantage of a Groupon promotion. I was not just impressed, but frequently inspired by the food.

We started with appetizers, bruschetta and fried olives with dipping sauces. The bruschetta was genuinely the best I have tasted. Perfectly toasted bread with a thick, hearty topping with roasted cherry tomatoes, cheese, and other ingredients that made it much heartier and more interesting than the typical bruschetta of Italian restaurants. The olives were a surprise--large green olives lightly breaded and fried without being too oily, and served with a plate of several different dipping sauces. Delicious. Also the standard bread, oil, and balsamic vinegar was memorable, with a pleasantly aged, fruity vinegar and warm, fresh bread.

The entrees impressed as well. For me, the Mediterranean pasta dish with shrimp, artichoke hearts, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and other ingredients in a tart, savory sauce was one of the best pasta dishes I can remember. My wife's lobster ravioli was also surprisingly good, with a bercy sauce that left us puzzled as to how it could be so delicious and yet so light.

We also sampled some desserts and again found outstanding quality and creativity. My frozen custard with strawberries was delicious, and the chocolate mousse shared by the other couple with us was rich and nearly perfect.

Given the classy setting and high-end quality of the food, one would expect this place to be rather pricey, but it was surprisingly inexpensive. With appetizers and desserts, the four of us had a bill of $111 plus tax and tip. Not bad! This is now one of my favorite restaurants in town. Delicious. The service was also excellent.

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