There are numerous restaurants I see while driving around this city, and I’m always eager to finally go to one I’ve passed for years. Tonight, Meredith Shamburger and I tried one we had both been curious about: a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that promised satisfying Italian food.
Bellini’s Cafe & Pizza doesn’t have a website, but it does have a large sign above its awnings in the small strip mall on Congress Avenue. Just off Oak Lawn Avenue, this Italian spot appears closer to fine dining once you walk in.
This particular evening, we were welcomed by a host (with a perfectly-executed Elvis hairstyle) who led us to the dining room: a smaller space filled with white table clothes covering tables topped with menus and silverware. Only half of these tables were full around 7 p.m. on this Saturday night.
A generous portion of toasted bread was offered to diners from a seemingly bottomless basket being carried around throughout the dining room. So far, so good, the crisp outside of the bread, topped with seasonings of rosemary, made a nice crunch before the soft fluff inside. A plate of olive oil, balsamic, garlic and parsley made the bread even more legitimate for filling up before the meal arrived.
Our young waiter was eager and attentive, but hardly helpful. I clearly brought on high levels of stress to him when asking his opinion on the better choice between the lobster ravioli and the chicken parmesan. (For the record, I know better than to order lobster ravioli in most Texas restaurants). After nervous considerations, the young man suggested the chicken parmesan, since he knew the angel hair was made by hand in house, and the ravioli was not. Chicken it was.
The caesar salad almost wasn’t worth mentioning: a creamy dressing with too much lemon was tossed in large pieces of lettuce. The waiter cracked black pepper before spooning grated parmesan over the small salad, all of which was topped with one crouton. Yes, just one dense crouton.
Meredith went with the angel hair and marinara sauce. Both of our plates were presented with tall, thin slices of carrot propped up in our pasta. Once we both took this out, we dove in. The chicken was slightly tough, but the seasoned, breaded flavor was there; and on bites topped with a copious amount of cheese, it was fine. The sauce was less-than impressive, though. I could blame it on the fact that it’s the beginning of March, but the seemingly watery tomatos made salt necessary. And the, as promised, handmade pasta failed to match up to even my favorite packaged pasta.
Overall, the service was up to par, but the food was less than pleasing. It could have been the one time, and it’s probably worth another shot. I was even tweeted that I should be pleased with the place. But with so many Italian restaurants in Dallas (and I just discovered there are FOUR in walking distance of my apartment), how do I have the time to risk this place again?