Bella Italia a hidden gem for tasty Italian food
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Bella Italia Pizza and Pasta looks unremarkable — with a dim atmosphere and just a few dilapidated laminate-covered booths. Housed in the middle of a strip plaza, I’d never been tempted to enter in the five years it’s been around. Only a recent strong recommendation from a foodie friend got me in the door. Simple and basic, all the food is served on paper plates, with plastic silverware.
This restaurant proves the old adage that looks can deceive. After visiting this humble establishment, I can say it provides some of the best home Italian cooking that I’ve had in Ann Arbor.
Bella Italia offers a variety of salads, as well as calzone and stromboli, subs and a huge assortment of pastas and pizza.
Don’t start your meal here without sampling the garlic knots, freshly kneaded and baked. Sprinkled with just a smattering of oil and garlic and served hot from the oven, these are neither greasy nor overpowering. They are fresh, chewy and clearly were just made.
The same goes for the mozzarella sticks. Bella Italia’s were delicious, served with homemade marinara sauce. I enjoyed using that same sauce to accompany the fantastic fried calamari. Even the basic Greek salad was noteworthy, full of fresh vegetables, including black and kalamata olives, served with a delicious special dressing.
The pizza here is New York style, with a thin, crispy crust. It was not particularly rich, due to the sparseness of tomato sauce and cheese, but my kids gave it the thumbs up. And you can’t beat the value — a 10-inch cheese pizza, with 10 slices, is only $5.50.
Bella Italia Pizza and Pasta
Chicken cacciatore could easily be shared and arrived piping hot in a spicy marinara sauce. Ziti pasta provided a nice backdrop to the sauce and big pieces of chicken. That same pasta and sauce was also in the baked ziti, which was quite good, and had a milder taste.
I also enjoyed the shrimp alfredo, which came with giant, fresh pieces of shrimp in a rich, though not too overwhelming, sauce. The server added big chunks of mushrooms and fresh spinach at my daughter’s request, which made this even better.
The only weak spot we found was the grilled chicken sub. Though the mozzarella and red peppers were fresh, they didn’t meld well with the bland, rubbery chicken.
As for desserts, don’t miss sampling the cannoli, which had a crisp, sweet shell and a fluffy, light interior, as good as any you’d find in an Italian bakery. The tiramisu was so cold it tasted like it had been recently defrosted and didn’t have that same original taste or quality.
Service was prompt and friendly. Bella Italia is a great treat if you’re up for hearty Italian dining.