Bella Italia Delicatessen and Gifts8155 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89511
How nice to enjoy a low-key Italian dinner with good friends and conversation. My husband, and colleagues Janet, Keith and their daughter Gwen provided the friends, while Bella Italia provided the dinner. Opening only five months ago, Bella Italia is a smidgeon hard to find off the southwest corner of Longley and Virginia, but fire up your GPS navigator and give it a shot because this is a very good overall value for service, taste and price.
The decorum is schizophrenic, but not in a bad way. You have the obligatory Italian flag and imported food items, like rosemary breadsticks, for sale. But don’t expect to hear heartrending string music or find an old-fashioned WC where Michael Corleone’s goons might have hidden a pistol. The bright lights, high ceiling and proximity of the kitchen to the diners goes along with Bella Italia’s double function as a practical lunch deli.
They don’t have their liquor license yet, but after we sat down, our dour but sincere chef/manager invited us to bring our own wine from the nearby Scolari’s without penalty or prejudice. Seven-year-old Gwen cheerfully volunteered that the dearth of wine would be no nuisance to her. My routinely less abstemious husband said nothing.
The standard appetizer of bread and olive oil tided us over while we talked shop, about Gwen’s schooling and how a chocolate doughnut can save—or cost—a life, especially when one is pregnant. A teenager next to us texted nervously through his date, pathetically trying to conceal his behaviors with one of Bella Italia’s vertically folded cloth napkins.
We were apparently the first customers of the evening—the few others trickled in later—so the prompt delivery of our entrées should be regarded with that caveat. Still, our server was polite and efficient, if somewhat timid in her distribution of the freshly grated parmesan, which was at least not just sitting stale in a shaker like at a pizza parlor. We dined.
My husband had wanted to sample all of the day’s special ravioli offerings: cheese, mushroom and squash, and the staff accommodated this unorthodox request nessun problema. He reported the squash had a desserty twang that might do for some, if not him, but both the cheese and mushroom options were precisely boiled and went perfectly with their respective red and white sauces.
My spinach and ricotta manicotti ($8.75), served in an individual baking pan and smothered in cheese, was better still, and I devoured it, much to the consternation of my husband who, while not necessarily disliking his selections, envied my order.
Janet’s gnocchi were serviceable but could have used a spicier sauce. Keith’s cannelloni (stuffed with beef and pork, $8.75) were good, but not fancy. It was similar to something you might make at home. It had a comforting flavor but was nothing to shout about.
Little Gwen provided an uncomplicated assessment, declaring her basic spaghetti ($8.75), adorned with naught but parmesan, to be “cheesy yummy.” I think a child’s appreciation of good simple things is the right way to approach Bella Italia, even if it’s a smidgeon hard to find and no wine awaits when you get there.