Restaurant Of The Week
By Teresa Barile
Casa Bella—The Art Of Fine Italian Cuisine
Nestled in the quiet village of Whitestone is the welcome Casa Bella, a friendly neighborhood restaurant opened last February, that serves fabulous Italian cuisine. Giovanni and Nicole Briones and Chef Umberto offer a varied menu that includes well-prepared standard Italian favorites such as delectable shrimp scampi and veal marsala, as well as inventive dishes and daily specials.
We started with a glass of our favorite wine from their impressive wine list and decided to share the daily pasta special as a first course. We were delighted with the flavor and freshness of homemade black linguine with fresh mussels, clams, baby shrimp and chunks of swordfish in a light tomato sauce. Warm, crusty bread helped to absorb all the delicious flavors as we savored every last drop. After Nicole’s mouthwatering description, we couldn’t resist a sampling of Chef Umberto’s famous lobster bisque, divinely smooth and creamy with tidbits of tender lobster. Other appetizers include crisp baked clams, paper-thin prosciutto and melon and mussels Luciano in a garlicky white wine sauce. Insalata Casa Bella is a crunchy salad of mixed greens tossed with tomato, mozzarella, olives and hazelnuts.
Our friendly and courteous waiter described wonderful specials of the day that made looking at the menu seem unnecessary. How does chicken Casa Bella sound, sautéed with roasted peppers, asparagus and mushrooms? Or perhaps you’d prefer tender grilled baby lamb chops. My dinner companion devoured the butterflied veal chop, cooked to his specifications and placed atop a blend of Portobello mushrooms. Each entrée comes with exceptionally good oven-roasted potatoes and fresh vegetables. My favorite green vegetable with garlic and a touch of olive oil, broccoli rabe was served that evening.
After hearing about the wonderful specials, seeing the menu made our decision even harder. If you love pasta (and who doesn’t?) you’ll enjoy the generous bowls of pasta served at Casa Bella. Spaghetti Silvestres is tossed with a trio of shitake, Portobello and oyster mushrooms with fresh tomato and arugula ($10.95). Penne Casa Bella combines chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and arugula for a really satisfying meal. Best of all, visit on Monday and Tuesday evenings when Pasta Nights prevail. Enjoy their standard of mammoth-sized bowls of pasta with a glass of wine and salad for the amazing price of $8.95 per person. This deal can’t be beat. The ravioli, all homemade, are filled with either lobster in a sage and butter sauce, spinach and cheese or chicken.
If you’re the meat and potatoes type, Casa Bella grills a generous 14-ounce New York cut steak, cooked to order and served with beer-battered fries. For a savory dish, try tender chicken partially deboned and pansimmered with fresh rosemary and natural juices. Fresh fish specials change daily, and I was lucky enough to have tender, flaky grouper, prepared scampi style. It melted in my mouth. Grilled salmon with slivered almonds in lemon–dill sauce is always on the menu at $16.95.
More good news about Casa Bella—they’re open for lunch, with dishes starting at $5.95. Tasty sandwiches on warm foccaccia bread, salads, and three-egg omelets are excellent choices for a satisfying mid-day meal.
Save room for dessert as Chef Umberto whips up a light and fluffy tiramisu and Italian cheesecake. A frothy cappuccino is the perfect accompaniment, or you can indulge in an after-dinner cordial.
While the food is top-notch, the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed. You don’t need to be very dressed up to enjoy your meal. On the weekends, you’ll hear soothing music from the organ. Plan your next private party at Casa Bella, which has accommodations for 25 to 60 people. They can also provide off-site catering.
Visit Casa Bella soon for great food in a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Credit cards accepted.
12-53 150th Street