If there is one thing that is plentiful in the Orlando area, it has to be places to eat. When you look at Orlando in general, there is an abundance of things to do and to support that, there has to be a lot of places to eat. This can often make dining choices difficult to narrow down. When that happens people can get easily overwhemed by choices and wind up at a chain restaurant because it is familiar. That is not always a bad thing; when you find a well ran chain restaurant, it can be a great help for many different reasons.
Today we were really craving some Italian food, and thankfully there were a lot of choices in nearly every price range. So we packed into the car and shunned the chain restaurants that seemed to be calling out to us in favor of finding and supporting local and/or family owned establishments. Before long, we found ourselves in front of Bella Italia in Winter Garden, Florida. Bella Italia is a common name for an Italian restaurant, so if you are using GPS to try them out as well, make sure the address is 13848 Tilden Road, Suite 192 Winter Garden, FL 34787. Also note, they are closed on Mondays before you head over.
At first glance, it is a rather unassuming storefront almost hidden behind a Walgreens and situated next to a Slidder's Pizza inside The Shoppes at Windward Cay. What is really nice about the plaza is the fact that the majority of the storefronts are hidden from passing cars, which means this place may remain a locals’ joint and a hidden gem at least for a little while longer. We 110% want them to be wildly successful, more than they already may be, but we do love the way they are able to pace the experience and how they treat the patrons like family. Sometimes when a place gets too busy, these things can suffer, but for now we do not have to worry about that.
We did not have a reservation and we were nervous heading towards the door at 8pm on a Friday night. There was just a 20-minute wait and seats available at a small bar with a single TV and a very capable, attentive bartender. If you are interested in covered outdoor seating, that was also an option. The staff immediately greeted us and took our name for the table. We were also given a card with the phone number in case we wanted to call ahead for seating on the next trip, or planned on dining with a party of 8 or more. If you would like to reserve a table, please call 1-407-347-3277
Moments after being seated in a comfortable booth, our waiter arrived with a smile and took our drink orders. I will give them credit at this restaurant for keeping a well rounded wine list at afforable prices. We are only telling you this next part because you are following us on Newsbreak, a little known secret at this restaurant is the half price bottles of wine on Thursdays! All you need to do is order the bottle, tell them Cam sent you in and leave a good tip. They will give you the 1/2 price bottle even if you forget to tell them who sent you.
The wait staff was very friendly, and gave us a quick history of Bella Italia as he opened our bottle of Valpolicella wine. The cliff notes are Bella Italia was opened in 2016 by a husband and wife team (Leonard and Dorina Kodra) and remain family owned to this day. Chef Leonard has 20+ years of experience in the kitchen and it shows. One thing we noted was the other tables were mostly filled with repeat customers and everyone was on a first name basis it seemed. Halfway through our dinner, it was easy to see why as we planned our next visit before finishing the bread & olive oil.
The Bella Italia Food Menu is the quintessential Italian food lineup that any good red sauce joint should be executing well. We can tell you that Bella Italia is hitting this menu out of the park. We have tried this location 3 times in a week and every time, it was spot on. The servers all know who we are now and any particular food requests or modifiers we have made. We now feel like we are eating at a friend's house which makes the experience that much better.
So armed with our glasses of Valpolicella and a heathy appetite, our meals arrived. Theresa ordered the Linguini alla Vongole (Linguini with clams) which looked amazing as soon as it hit the table with a healthy amount of clams and shells present in the dish. The clams were sauteed in olive oil and garlic, finished with a white wine sauce. It was excellent and the clams were very fresh, overall an outstanding dish for $21.99
I went for the Penne Bolognese which was loaded with plenty of meat. It was a balanced plate of pasta with a huge serving size for $16.99. I would also recommend the Gnocchi Bolognese if you’re a fan of pasta due to the outstanding flavor in the sauce component, which these dishes share. We have also tried the Chicken Parm, the Eggplant Parm and Lamb chops, all of which were executed well.
If you save room for dessert, the servings are pretty healthy here as well. The Cannoli can be consumed as one large serving or a few mini cannolis which are easy for sharing. The table next to us got a very large serving of Tiramisu and it looked like it was made correctly. They confirmed that the flavor was on point as well with coffee soaked lady fingers throughout and a healthy dusting of cocoa powder on top. They have a kids menu available but we did not see any kids during our experiences, which were later in the evenings and over the weekend.
The verdict here is we highly recommend Bella Italia as a casual, family-friendly dining experience. They have put a lot of time into the food and hospitality side of their business and it shows well. We would not hesitate to bring anyone to this place. There appears to be seating for approximately 70 people so calling ahead may be a good idea, and who knows, you may be seated next to us!