2014-12-10 / Restaurant of the Week

Bella Lena’s

Bella Lena’s is the perfect, corner Italian restaurant offering “Everyday Italian with Old World Charm”, goes their slogan, and that’s just what you’ll get at this fabulous eatery located in the cozy village of Ridgewood, a short walk from the M train. Bella Lena’s is a family operation, opened two and a half years ago by the dynamic wife and husband team of Karen and Ivan Calle. Ivan, the executive chef, had years of training in Little Italy before opening their first restaurant, “Trattoria Lucia” in Bellerose 10 years ago. Now Bella Lena’s serves Western Queens and even Brooklyn residents their signature dishes prepared and served with love and pride.

Everything at Bella Lena’s is cooked fresh on the spot and beautifully presented, just like their signature dish called Seafood Lucia, which graces the cover of their menu and Web site. Karen and the manager, Anna Wentrys work the front of the house and welcome everyone like family. In fact, there were quite a few families and friends sharing a wonderful meal the night I visited. We started with the homemade buratta, which is a buttery soft, fresh cheese served with roasted peppers, sweet and spicy dried sausage, and Genoa salami over a bed of arugula and pine nuts. Next came a very impressive hot antipasto platter for two served with two portions each of eggplant rollatini, stuffed mushrooms with golden bread crumbs, crispy, juicy baked clams and shrimp. Soak up all the savory juices with the crusty, rustic Italian bread on the table, then move on to the light, crisp, fried calamari rings served with Ivan’s zesty marinara sauce ($12.95). Even the kids love the coconut shrimp, prepared in house from plump shrimp with a light, coconut crust and dipping sauce. Fresh mussels Posillippo or Luciano in red or white wine sauce beg to be soaked up with some bread. Order a bottle of your favorite wine, such as Chianti or Montepulciano to complement your meal.

Entrées at Bella Lena’s include plenty of pasta dishes, meat, chicken, fish, seafood, vegetarian, and gluten-free options so there’s something for all tastes. The house specialty pasta is the hand made “fioretti boscaiola”. These flower-shaped bundles of fresh pasta are filled with six cheeses and topped with a pink sauce with prosciutto, peas, and mushrooms ($15.95). You can’t go wrong with pappardelle Monte Bianca: ribbon pasta topped with grilled chicken, spinach and gorgonzola cream sauce. Spaghetti Frank Sinatra will have you singing for more of this delicious dish made with shrimp, clams, capers, and Kalamata olives. Bella Lena’s farfalle are tossed with shrimp, spinach, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, garlic and oil for a Mediterranean treat. Pasta dishes come with a house salad, making a whole meal a good deal.

Getting back to the “cover story”, Seafood Lucia is a massive portion of the freshest mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, and crab legs over a mound of al dente linguine that satisfies even the biggest appetite. Salmon Riviera is another popular item at Bella Lena’s due to the large portion of flaky salmon sautéed in white wine, garlic and a touch of rosemary. Tilapia Francese will melt in your mouth, and the classic shrimp scampi is served over a bed of fluffy rice.

Cut into a thick, juicy steak, grilled baby lamb chops, or sausages with onions and potatoes. Fork-tender veal or chicken is pounded thin and sautéed gently in sweet Marsala wine sauce, Francese sauce, or layered with eggplant, prosciutto, and mozzarella as in the Sorrentino favorite. Chicken Lorenza is off the bone and cooked with spicy sausage, onions, potatoes, and hot pepperoncini in white wine sauce for the perfect cold weather meal. All meat, chicken, and fish entrees are served with either house salad, pasta, or potato croquettes.

After all this delicious food, we were told we simply had to try the homemade desserts made with the best ingredients and two parts love, from sister Maureen’s kitchen. Admittedly, these are some of the best restaurant desserts I’ve ever had. Choose among red velvet cake with real cream cheese frosting, mixed berry sour cream crunch cake (my personal favorite), peanut butter mousse cake with Oreo crust, or the take-me-to-prison flourless chocolate cake. You can feel less guilty because they’re all made with fresh, natural ingredients and did I mention the love?

Bella Lena’s is open for lunch and dinner six days a week (closed Monday). There is an intimate, private party room adjacent to the restaurant that can accommodate up to 35 people so keep it in mind for your holiday party, business event or family occasion. Bella Lena’s does expert off-premises catering too, for all sizes of parties. For Everyday Italian with Old World Charm there’s only one place to go: Bella Lena’s in Ridgewood. Buon appetito!

64-02 Fresh Pond Road
Ridgewood, NY  718.417.5100

www.bellalenas.com Follow us on FaceBook

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