For years I’ve driven past the red, white and green sign that signals Bella Italia, an Italian eatery in a strip mall on South Virginia. I’ve never gone in and I constantly wondered why not. So, when a friend and I were looking for a new-to-us dinner spot, we decided to give the longtime Reno establishment a try.
Upon first phone call to make a reservation, I had high hopes. The man who answered the phone was gruff with a thick accent. I quickly put down my name and prepared for the meal by making sure I’d have plenty of room to scarf down a plate of pasta come dinner.
Entering Bella Italia wasn’t what I expected. The same man who answered the phone greeted us as our waiter. The classic dim lighting and Italian elevator music weren’t present. Instead, we were seated at a brightly-lit table, handed menus for food and wine and left to our own devices.
The waiter let us try sips of wines—there were some less recognizable options on the menu, which is always fun—before settling on a couple of glasses. Around us a few other small tables enjoyed their meals with bottles open between them.
Choosing an entrée was the hardest part because everything sounded delectable, and the menu was also partially in Italian (although English descriptors accompanied each dish). We were told the ravioli is made in-house and is therefore a good choice for anyone on their first visit.
I settled on the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, a long noodle perfectly coasted in thick cream sauce. It wasn’t the runny store-bought varieties; this was a homemade delicacy rich in flavor and texture. Salty pancetta was thoroughly mixed in, and there was an offering of freshly-grated parmesan served tableside.
The presentation, much like the service, was no-frills, but the food stood up regardless. I quickly became aware of exactly the type of establishment this was—the one you go to for truly good Italian fare.
My dinner mate chose the Ravioli Al Funghi (mushroom ravioli), pillowy and soft and coated in a cream sauce that looked identical to mine. Not one to typically finish a healthy helping of hearty pasta, there wasn’t a noodle left on either plate.
We were in and out for our dinner service in record time. Again, we weren’t here for the friendly conversation—except for with each other—and had enough time to grab another drink before heading home. I’m a firm believer in every eatery having its own charms, and at this one it’s clear the authentic Italian cooking style and attention to detail on each plate is Chef Giuseppe Zappala’s specialty.
Editor’s Note: One of our readers was quick to point out that Chef Zappala is well-known locally having been a chef at the Eldorado’s La Strada for many years. It’s there he created the famous mushroom ravioli that he still makes today–at Bella Italia. Thank you to DB Finley for the reminder!
In person: 8155 S Virginia St #100A, Reno, NV 89511
Call: (775) 853-8844
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dinner 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. She graduated from California State University Sacramento with a bachelor’s in English and is pursuing her master’s in Professional Journalism as we speak. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.