BELLA’S BOUNTY Tuna with caponata “salsa.”
All jokes about Foster/Glocester weather reports aside, the village of Glendale is also very much off-the-beaten-track of the Greater Providence metro area. We took one two-lane road to get there and another to get back, and there were 10 or 12 miles on each that were unfamiliar territory to us South Countyites. But hearing recently from North Smithfield residents that the restaurant is still a local haven, we thought we'd set out for the town of Burrillville. It was an early Sunday evening, but the kitchen was quite busy with diners from both the bar/lounge area and the dining room itself.
The dining room has an enticing fireplace (especially at this time of year), a large mural of Venice across from a mural-sized mirror, and two ends of the room are atrium-like, with wall-to-wall windows and skylights. I loved staring at the lagoon just outside St. Mark's Square, picking out architectural features of the bell tower, the basilica, the Doges' palace, and the church called Santa Maria della Salute that sits just across the Grand Canal from St. Mark's. Ah, Venice.
The chef-owner's heritage, however, and that of his father, a long-time Rhode Island restaurateur, is Sicilian. The Calipais — father Guiseppe, son Giovan, and daughter Sarah — have run Bella for 14 years, and the menu reflects many regions of Italy, plus new creations and weekly specials from Chef Gio.
Appetizers list two styles of fried calamari; crab-stuffed mushrooms; littlenecks on the half-shell, stuffed with cracker crumbs, or simmered in a white or red sauce. There are also six pizzas to choose from. But I was intrigued by the gnocchi della casa, which we were able to get as a half-order ($11) for an appetizer. These were ricotta gnocchi with a pink sauce, grilled shrimp, and asparagus. The latter two were delicious, but the gnocchi themselves were heavier and much denser than I'd expected.
We were, however, heartened to hear that in the Land of Giant Portions — ie, most of Rhode Island — you could pick out a half-order of most items. What a sensible way to sample more things, if you're eating with two or three couples.
Some of the Sicilian dishes indicated on the menu include stuffed artichokes, eggplant rollatini, and the caponata "salsa" that topped the ahi tuna special that night ($27.95). Encrusted with sesame seeds and seared, with roast potatoes and grilled asparagus, this tuna steak was ordered "medium rare" by Bill, though the menu suggests "rare," and he was wishing he'd followed that advice. It was not as pink inside as he hoped, though he liked the dish as a whole.
I thought the vegetables were carefully cooked, though the garlic "crostini" seemed dry and not very garlicky, and the caponata had none of the characteristic tastes of the recipe I've made for years for the strongly Sicilian Bill and his family. No capers, no green olives, no anchovies. It must be a tradition from the other side of the mountain.
My entrée came from the regular menu, from among a half-dozen chieken offerings. It's called pollo Monte Carlo ($19), and the description is chicken sautéed with spinach, roasted red peppers, topped with smoked Gouda cheese, in a balsamic-honey-cream sauce. It was very flavorful, though the announced veggies and cheese were in scarce attendance, and when I questioned the waiter about the sauce, he admitted that it was very close to the marsala sauce.