Bella Napoli serves great food at reasonable prices in a comfortable atmosphere.
Tucked away in a shopping center at 350 Mountain Road, near Food Lion and Dollar Tree, this Italian gem has some of the best pasta and seafood in the Pasadena area.
I enjoyed lunch with a friend on a Tuesday afternoon. The restaurant was fairly busy around 1:00pm, but the hostess seated us quickly, and the server, Chris, brought us warm, homemade bread and stayed on top of drink refills throughout our meal.
The owners have put a lot of effort into making the restaurant feel like a tiny piece of Italy right here in Pasadena. Murals of the Amalfi Coast graced the walls, and classic songs by Frank Sinatra played softly in the background.
My friend and I started off with the caprese salad appetizer and a bowl of Bella Napoli’s cream of crab soup, which has won several awards during the Lake Shore-Severna Park Rotary Club’s crab soup cook-off. The caprese salad was generously portioned and fresh. The mozzarella is made in-house, the tomatoes were juicy and crunchy, and the basil was fresh and flavorful. The whole thing was drizzled with olive oil and spices. It’s the kind of savory appetizer that teases your taste buds but does not leave you feeling overly stuffed before the entree comes.
The cream of crab soup was knock-your-socks-off good. The consistency was perfect, boasting the creamy decadence of the Maryland classic without the congealed fattiness that creeps into many local cream-based soups. Spiced right, each bite was filled with substantial chunks of flavorful crab meat.
From there, we moved on to entrees, which arrived quickly and were served hot. I enjoyed the shrimp scampi, and my friend got the chicken parmigiana.
The shrimp scampi was nothing short of fantastico! Plump gulf shrimp were nestled in a large bowl of linguine and tossed in a flavorful sauce made of garlic, butter, lemon and wine. Strong garlic undertones paired with acidic lemon notes to make my taste buds sing (not sure what they were singing, but it was probably something Italian). This was my favorite dish of the afternoon, and what I will probably order when — not if — I visit Bella Napoli again.
The chicken parmigiana was everything you would hope for in the classic dish. The large chunk of chicken was juicy and coated with a light layer of crispy, fried breading. I’m usually cautious of fried chicken dishes, because many that I’ve tried are overcooked or breaded so heavily that it feels more like I’m eating a funnel cake than an Italian dish. This was not the case with Bella Napoli’s version of the Italian favorite. The indulgent taste of the fried chicken was incredibly satisfying, buried under a thick, bubbly layer of cheese. The chicken sat atop a bed of spaghetti noodles and marinara. The spaghetti was pretty standard, nothing to write home about, but I had no real complaints. It paired well with the chicken.
We ended our meal with homemade tiramisu and coffees. The tiramisu was unique. The classic layered dessert had a strong coffee flavor, accompanied by Kahlua that added a deeper flavor dimension, and made the dessert feel almost sinful. If you’re a serious coffee lover, you will want to order this. If not, it may be a little overwhelming for you. Thankfully, I’m a serious coffee lover (and my lunch partner is a serious Kahlua lover), so we scraped the bowl nearly clean.
The meal cost around $70 for two iced teas, soup, an appetizer, two entrees, two coffees and a dessert. I have to make special mention of our waiter, Chris. He is the epitome of a smooth and charming waiter. He was not only efficient, balancing multiple tables with apparent ease, but his warm smile, gregarious personality, and helpful menu suggestions made us feel right at home.
Next time you’re in the mood for Italian, make the trip to Bella Napoli. You’ll be glad you did, and I guarantee when you taste the pasta, pizza or seafood, you’ll walk away singing.