Under the Umbrella

Bellini’s Ristorante and Bar’s patio is a date night favorite.

By Jan Walsh

We arrive at Bellini’s Ristorante and Bar for our 5:30 p.m. reservation. All sidewalk and brick walled patio’s tables are taken by other couples, except our corner table displaying a “reserved” sign. We nestle into umbrellaed table where large rectangular flowerpots line the top of the walls above us, heightening our privacy with vibrant colors and sweet aromas.

Cocktails here are always interesting and delicious. We opt for Strawberry Whiskey Lemonade and Traditional Bellini. The lemonade is a tasty, thirst quencher of fresh strawberries, lemonade, and Jack Daniels. And the Bellini is a fab, fizzy find of prosecco and in season, fresh peach puree.

As we look over the menu, Chef Andrew Thatcher greets us to discuss my food allergies and suggests accommodations he can make in the kitchen. With appreciation of his suggestions and accommodations, we select the Charcuterie to share. Perfect for lingering on the patio are Chefs Choice of three artisanal meats: Prosciutto, Salami, and Soppressata and three cheeses: cubes of smoked gouda and aged cheddar, with sliced mozzarella. We layer the Italian meats and creamy cheeses on toast and pile on pink, pickled onions, tart Kalamata olives, and a delightful citrus jam for an interactive and scrumptious start!

Date night entrees often consist of a turf for Kev and surf for me. And tonight, we are as predictable as ever, with selections of Filet Mignon and Wood Grilled Caesar with Gulf Grouper. Kev’s eight-ounce steak is topped with crispy tobacco onions and is cooked to order. Each bite of this finely grained, juicy, and flavorful meat is melt in the mouth tender. He substitutes the garlic mashed potatoes with a twice baked potato, which is a rare find these days. And the rosemary steak sauce further moistens and enhances the beef, rather than without overpowering it, revealing only slight hints of rosemary.

Kev’s steak is not the only thing with grill marks. This salad is a longtime favorite. When I first tried it, many years ago when Bellini’s first opened, I was amazed that lettuce could be fire grilled. Since that time, I have seen the grilled salad done at other restaurants, but not as well as Bellini’s. The romaine stands up to the heat as it infuses a smokiness and slightly wilts the lettuce, without losing its crunchiness. Piled on the lettuce are grilled red onion, juicy in season tomatoes, and crisp, house-made croutons. And crowning the salad is my protein addition of a gorgeous and generous filet of Gulf grouper. I pair the fish salad with a glass of one of my favorite wines: Domaine Patrick Girault 'Sancerre Le Vallon des Demoiselles, Loire Valley, 2020. It is served well chilled, is golden in color, with citrus notes that enhance the flavors of the milky, sweet grouper. This pairing is highly recommended!

We linger longer over a romantic slice of Chocolate Decadence Cake with after dinner drinks, White Russian and a 20-Year Tawny Port.
Bellini’s Torta di Cioollato is a dreamy mousse cake of chocolate butter cream with chocolate glacage. Both drinks marry well with the cake, but the port is a perfect match.

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