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North Side Restaurant Review: Piazza Bella

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Nov 30, 2006 4:20PM

As a general rule, we try not to eat out at Italian restaurants. It isn't that we don't like Italian food, because we do. The prohibition comes more from a belief that most Italian food served in restaurants can be easily created at home. And who wants to pay $12 for a bowl of pasta and sauce that we could make in our own kitchen?

2006_11_pizza1.jpgBut then we read Heat, by Bill Buford. A chronicle of Buford's time in celebrity chef Mario Batali's kitchen, we were thus inspired to get back out there and give Italian restaurants another try.

The first thing you notice upon walking into Roscoe Village's Piazza Bella is that it is a restaurant built for romance. The muted tones of the restaurant combined with an intimate space encourage diners to lean into their companions. The live guitar music — miked a tad too loudly for our tastes — only adds to the romantic ambiance.

We started out with the Insalata Piazza, which seemed to be the dagwood sandwich of salads. Chopped romaine and endive were mixed with provolone, Gorgonzola, walnuts, orange slices, tomatoes, raisins and blueberries and tossed with a raspberry vinegarette. Conceptually, the salad was a mess — why would anyone mix so many ingredients together? — but it still tasted great, since each bite had multiple layers of flavor. By taking out the provolone and blueberries, we think this salad would be slightly more cohesive, and thus, a successful creation.

2006_11_pizza2.jpgWe chose Spaghetti Alla Putanesca for our main course. This is not a dish you should order if you want to take advantage of Piazza Bella's romantic atmosphere, as it include anchovies, capers, black olives and loads of garlic. The spaghetti noodles themselves were perfectly al dente, which is rare to find in a restaurants. We usually like our putanesca sauce a little more complex than the simple one served at Piazza Bella, but it was still delicious in all the right ways: tangy capers complemented the slightly creamy tomato sauce and were kicked up a notch by the robust garlic and anchovy flavors.

We figured we couldn't go to an Italian restaurant and not consume any pizza, so we ordered the Mozzarella Pizza to get a sense of their pizza offerings. While it wasn't bad by any means, it didn't blow us away. When we eat thin crust pizza, we like it to have a definite crispiness to it. When you bite into it, there should be some resistance. Though it didn't have that characteristic, it still was a decent approach, and it was certainly large enough in size.

Piazza Bella is located at 2116 W. Roscoe St., and its open every day for dinner and M-F for lunch.