A popular topic of conversation at a Foxfield Inn breakfast centers on dinner, as guests share where they ate the night before and where they hope to dine in the upcoming evening. Increasingly, Bella’s, an Italian spot on Main Street, has received rave reviews, so we decided to check it out for ourselves, snapping a few photos along the way.
Even though it prides itself on authentic Italian fare, here’s what you won’t find at Bella’s: red-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths, drums of tomato sauce and bottles of olive oil gathering dust in front of Old World-themed wallpaper, and bottomless punch bowls of salad dominated by iceberg lettuce.
Rather, the ambiance is warm, cozy, and tasteful–even the bar is tidy and inviting–creating a perfect setting for sharing a meal with your loved ones.
And indeed, sharing is the name of the game at Bella’s. Along with the knife and fork awaiting me at my place was my own oval-shaped white plate, the perfect size for transferring individual portions from our table’s communal serving dishes as each course emerged from the kitchen. This, a refreshing change of pace from the meticulously composed dishes in many contemporary restaurants these days–you know, the ones where you’re nervous to cut the first morsel of your entree for fear of disturbing the “art” on your plate or worse, risking looking like a dilettante as you wonder whether that garnish is edible.
At Bella’s, the focus is on enjoying the company of the ones you are with amid a truly satisfying, shared meal. Their revival of the family-style meal is further reflected in the menu portions: each appetizer, salad, pasta dish, and entree is available in a half portion that feeds 2, or a full portion that feeds 3-4. The friendly and helpful waitstaff will happily guide you through the menu, suggesting dishes to share whether your party (or your appetite) is large or small.
The small portion of bruschetta came with 6 hefty slices of Italian bread smothered in cheese, Italian herbs, fresh tomatoes and basil with a balsamic glaze.
Spaghetti alla carbonara is the comfort food of the Italian kitchen, and it’s how I personally evaluate an Italian restaurant. This one didn’t disappoint. Crispy, salty pancetta added a delicate crunch to the silky, parmesan-laced noodles. My husband and I could have finished a half portion between the two of us, but we purposely left some to take home for lunch the next day.
Our waiter highly recommended a slice of the homemade tiramisu for dessert, but I’ve always been a cannoli kind of gal, so that’s how I ended the meal, saving one for my breakfast the following morning.
Bella’s is the type of place that if I had any relatives of Italian descent, I could imagine an aunt or a grandmother sitting next to me, twirling pasta around a fork and enthusiastically offering it to me to taste again and again, watching my facial expression for signs of sincere enjoyment. She’d tell me I was too thin and needed to eat! eat! because this, this is-a how-a the parmigiana is supposed to be, almost as good as her own– and it is delizioso, non?
Well, even if I don’t have any Italian blood in my genes, family is certainly an important foundation at Bella’s. The grandparents of the restaurant’s namesake were flown in from Rome to train the chefs, using their own family recipes. While you’re waiting for your meal, take in the charming family photographs on the wall. If you’re really lucky, you may be greeted by Bella herself at the front door. But if she’s not there, take a look at the photo hanging over the hostess station by the front entrance–that’s Bella as a young girl. Be sure to take a moment to thank her for sharing her family’s love of food with you.
Whether you’re a foodie seeking comforting, authentic Italian food, or simply want to reconnect with your loved one in a relaxing setting, it’s easy to see why Bella’s is so popular with our guests. I, too, look forward to dining there again.
Tell us and other guests what you most enjoyed about Bella’s in the comments below! If you’ll be visiting soon, tell us what you are looking forward to or what questions you have for the Bella’s staff, and let us know how we at the Foxfield Inn can help you make the most of your stay. Buon appetito!
Dan and Kathryn Bundy, Innkeepers
Dan and Kathryn Bundy, Innkeepers
2280 Garth Road | Charlottesville, Virginia