Appreciative Audience

Bellini’s Ristorante and Bar has a loyal lunch following.

By Jan Walsh

Fine dining restaurants off Highway 280 are uncommon. And finding one open for lunch, anywhere is novel, especially with outdoor dining. Most tablecloth restaurants open only for dinner and maybe Sunday brunch. Yet Bellini’s Italian infused steakhouse checks off all these boxes.

Today we have 11:00 reservations for Bellini’s patio. But with dark clouds overhead we are rethinking this decision. And the hostess happily accommodates with a window table instead. Soon there is not a seat in the house. From the bar stools to the back, this place is packed for lunch. Ladies meeting friends, co-workers, lunch dates, such as us, etc. are among the patrons who are regulars here. No wonder. Bellini’s lunch menu pleases all with its vast array of apps, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, pizzas, and pastas, as well as grilled (on three different types of wood) steaks and pork. Chef Andrew Hatcher also prepares pastas in house. And the desserts, dressings, and sauces are house made.

To start Kev opts for Tuscan Meatballs. And I order the Caprese Salad. Two mega house made meatballs arrive piping hot atop a pool of Bellini’s marvelous marinara. The meatballs are also smothered in melted mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic reduction. I recently visited with Chef, and he described that each batch of marinara is a taste experiment because every tomato is different from all others. Thus, he fine tunes his other ingredients accordingly to create his signature marinara. And it shows in every bite of this cheesy, meaty, robust dish, which is rounded out by the sauce bursting with fresh tomato texture and flavor.

My Caprese Salad is a lovely layering of creamy, milky mozzarella and acidic tomatoes, complimenting by contrasting. The simple salad is topped off with herbaceous basil and intense, rich, and vinegary balsamic reduction.

For entrees, Kev has Bellini’s Burger. White hot flavors of Chef’s synthesis of three woods radiate in the burger’s cooked to order, grilled beef. This two-fisted burger is served on a soft, warm brioche bun, with mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli. Highly recommended!

In search of a dish, I have not previously tried, I catch the Seafood Ravioli and pair it with a Sancerre from their Wine Spectator Award of Excellence list, Domaine Patrick Girault 'Sancerre Le Vallon des Demoiselles. Each handmade ravioli is masterfully made. The pasta’s thickness is not too thick or tough to the tooth and not too thin and fragile. And it is skillfully and precisely cooked. Each plump round of pasta envelops delicate and succulent shrimp and crab. And the raviolis are covered in, and float on, a smooth and complex blackened sherry cream sauce. Also sailing around this bowl are slices of sausage, cherry tomatoes, onion, and finely shredded Reggiano. Together the blackened sauce and sausage bring forth unexpected yet balanced piquancy. And the Sancerre’s citrus notes highlight the seafood. A perfect pairing!

To finish we share the in-season Bourbon Peach Upside-down Cake and pair it with Grahams 20 Year Tawny Port. This is not your mother’s upside-down cake. The warm cake is spiced with bourbon, topped with pretty, caramelized peaches. It is topped with house made vanilla gelato that melts and melds into the fruit and cake. The warm cold contrast delights the palate with creamy, peachy, cakey bites that are punctuated with whisky notes. This nectarous mosaic is further enhanced by the aged, amber colored port’s caramel and fig, aromatic bouquet, unfolding with flavors of mature peaches and apricots in each sip. Both the dessert and the port are jewels rarely found for lunch.


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