Last week, my co-worker and I decided to have lunch at a new restaurant named, “La Bella Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria – BYOB,” which opened in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in May 2010. It is located in the Southgate Plaza shopping center at 2454 Lafayette Road, adjacent to Big Lots discount store. We arrived a few minutes after noontime, and the restaurant was empty except for a couple of diners on the other side of a partition whom we could hear but not see.
La Bella’s dining room is a rectangular open space filled with tables for four. It is clean and spacious, and decorated simply with a few paintings. The only natural light comes from the front of the restaurant. The atmosphere borders on being stark, as there is nothing interesting to look at. However, it is not unpleasant.
We were seated at a table set with paper placemats and napkins, and two big corked bottles of frothy Italian dressing. The only other time I had seen such oversized bottles of gritty dressing on a table was at Revorno Italian Restaurant in Kingston, New Hampshire. Therefore, I was interested to later find out that the owners of La Bella are the former owners of Revorno, which is now closed.
Our waiter was a tall, young man who was efficient and friendly. He took our drink order and then came back with a bread basket of four slices of white toast with butter packets. The white toast was tasteless, but I did appreciate that it was warm. Crusty Italian bread served with a dish of flavored, herbed oil would have been a more palatable choice for the restaurant to serve, and of comparable cost.
The extensive menu is divided into lunch and dinner options. The dinner menu offers eight appetizers, four salads, four soups, several types of pizza, including a take-out pizza special: two cheese pizzas for $15.99. It also has traditional Italian chicken, veal, seafood, and pasta entries, with prices ranging from $12.99 for cheese ravioli to $20.99 for a seafood combination dish.
We ordered from the lunch menu, which includes most of the same choices as the dinner menu, but with lower prices. Lunch offerings include sandwiches and entrees ranging from $8.99 to $12.99, as well as pizzas, which are $8.99 each, except for the cheese pizza, which is $6.99. The lunch menu also has soup, salads, desserts, and kids’ meals. I chose the “Chicken & Broccoli Aglie Olie” entrée, described as boneless chicken breast and fresh broccoli sautéed in garlic, olive oil and sundried tomatoes. When asked what sort of pasta I wanted, I specified linguini, which got me to wondering what pasta choices they do have. My friend ordered chicken parmesan, and asked for ziti with it.
Within fifteen minutes our waiter brought our lunch entrees, which were appropriately lunch sized. The chicken in my dish was oddly shaped, not sharply cut. It also had a boiled, wet consistency. The broccoli was fresh and crunchy. The sundried tomatoes were sodden with oil. There could have been more pasta on the plate. The modest portion of pasta I was given was saturated with oil. My friend’s dish was a plate of white ziti with some red sauce and a portion of breaded chicken. The plate looked scant, bland, and dismal. However, she ate it all with nary a complaint.
In a hurry to get back to the office, we skipped coffee and dessert. My friend had a $5 coupon which was not honored because we were a dollar and some change under the required minimum purchase. “Would you like a coffee or something, to bring the balance up?” the waiter asked. My friend politely refused, folded her coupon up, and tucked it away. Maybe we will use it another day, to come back and try the clam pie pizza.
LaBella restaurant has a website, http://www.labellabyob.com, offering online ordering, catering information, and daily specials notices. This restaurant is BYOB, with no cork fees. Hours of operation are Sunday 3 to 8pm, Monday through Thursday 11 am to 9:30 pm, and Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm.