First off, the menu has changed as much as the decor. There's a much more minimalist vibe in the looks of the place, as well as the food. Gone are the fancy shmancy offerings for the eyes and the palette. Instead, it's somewhat of a stripped down, honest-to-goodness, authentic Trattoria experience. While it is still sleek and sexy outside and in, the menu and the wait staff make you feel...comfortable.
My biggest problem, to be honest, was what to order. There is just about everything you'd want from a classic Italian place. Luckily, we had the luxury of a gift card (thanks Linda, Darin, & Theresa!) and a coupon to boot, so we were livin' large tonight!
We ordered a bottle of their wine special -- an Oregon Pinot, RouteStock. It was well-balanced and zesty, and got better as the meal progressed. Predictably, for me, I went traditional with my order, which is always my lithmus test for Italian places the first time around. Caprese Salad, Toscana Pizza (mushrooms, garlic, smoked mozzarella, goat cheese) to share, Trattoria Chicken Parmesan (with prosciutto and fontina), and marscapone mashed potatoes as a side.
The pizza was perfection. Great crust, perfectly melted cheeses and balanced toppings. The salad was fresh and bright, with just the right amount of salt and pepper to compliment the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. And, while I've had better chicken parm, I recognize I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to this dish, and respect them for putting their unique spin on it. Outside of the fact that I can't wait to sample other items on the menu, I would not hesitate to order this again.
Then, to our delight and surprise, our kind and knowledgeable waiter, Tom, informed us that the manager, Ryan, had directed him to comp us a dessert. Little did we expect it to be an entire platter of all the desserts they offer! Cheesecake, walnut brownies, tiramisu, panna cotta... it was all there... an orgy of sweets! We did our very best to indulge, but in the end, we surrendered to a full bag of leftovers. Bully for me, since I know I'll be the one who gets to enjoy them tomorrow!
The one thing that stood out to me, in the end, was that all of the menu items, including the ones we devoured, were repeatable. I mean, they tasted sufficiently freshly made, but I could already envision the entrepreneurial wheels turning, and other Bella Bravas sprouting up like other franchise forefathers before it (read: Bonefish Grill). The dishes are well-balanced, well-conceived, and well-executed. And if that does happen, all the power to 'em.
I just hope our own Bella Brava on Beach Drive doesn't forget where it came from...