64-02 Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood
Hours: Tue.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sat. noon to 11 p.m.; Sun. noon to 10 p.m.
Delivery / Takeout: Yes
Credit Cards: Yes
This quaint restaurant tucked in Ridgewood is a true testament of classic home-style Italian cooking. In order to have that type of quality, one must start in the kitchen, with chef Ivano – formerly of Angelo`s on Mulberry Street in Manhattan. He and his wife, Karen, who manages the front of the restaurant, have created a local must-visit Italian restaurant in the two years since it opened.
Upon sitting down at the table, Karen started my guest and I off with some traditional Italian staples: warm toasted bread served side by side with their homemade spiced oil and fresh-sliced tomatoes, topped off with some buffalo mozzarella and basil and accompanied by some fresh fire-roasted red peppers.
Just as I was done soaking the oil off my plate with the bread, two more dishes appeared on the table: eggplant rollatini and some coconut shrimp. The shrimp were perfectly butterflied and cooked, served with some honey mustard sauce. The only problem was that I wanted more. As I looked over towards the eggplant rollatini, it was easy to see a nice thin-sliced fried eggplant wrapped around its four cheese stuffing, covered in a delightful plum tomato sauce. As I slowly devoured this Italian treat, I could imagine Sunday dinner at home with the family and grandma pulling this dish right out of her oven with more than enough for the whole family.
My guest and I were next informed that Chef Ivano had also prepared one of his favorite pasta dishes, the Italian flag on a plate. The dish consisted of the different pastas in different sauces. First was a tortellini over a creamy Alfredo sauce, which was spot on. The perfect white in the flag. Next was gnocchi in their homemade plum tomato sauce as the red. The finale was Ivan’s homemade fioretti pasta, a small cheese-stuffed dumpling that looks like little moneybags. Stuffed with a secret nine-cheese stuffing and served with his incredible pesto sauce, the green portion of the flag was easily the standout of the dish. The dish was a creative touch and the best part of our meal.
Though my belly was getting full, Karen insisted we try more, so on to the next course, an untraditional surf ‘n’ turf, sliced skirt steak and flounder oregonata. The dish was paired with roasted sliced potatoes and sautéed spinach in garlic and oil. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Just as I anticipated, the founder was excellent, flakey and buttery, just a well-put-together dish.
To finish off, we had Bella Lena’s decadent homemade chocolate cake. Served a la mode and accompanied by a double espresso, it was the best way to end our meal.
Overall, the restaurant provided good food from good people, everything you could want from a night out.
– Eric Jordan