Several weeks ago we celebrated Diner C’s birthday with lunch at Bella Mia Pizzaria, a relatively new, casual American-Italian eatery located on South Beretania Street, situated amongst a corridor of detached homes, low-rise apartments and small businesses. This is actually one of two restaurants under the same name, with another Bella Mia (sans the “Pizzeria” extension) location on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki, where as it turns out, that location is owned by Brooklyn native Joey Gonzalez, while his son owns and operates this restaurant.
Obviously converted from an older residential home itself, parking here is limited to, well, as many cars you could fit in the front of a yard typical of the size in this area, which, IIRC, was about seven vehicles max’. The lot was already full on our early arrival lunch hour visit, yet thankfully we quickly found a parallel parking space just a stone throw away on the street front.
The dining room is made up entirely of an open-air porch fronting the establishment, with a romantic and relaxed ambiance suggested by its subtle Mediterranean themed decor…
The kitchen occupies the back half of the restaurant, which is semi-open to view from the dining room. They don’t sell alcohol, yet of course being an Italian eatery, BYOB is certainly welcome, and best of all, there’s no corkage fee.
Let’s check out what’s on the menu…
Here’s the daily specials that run throughout the week…
Wow, $6.95 is a lot less than most plate lunch takeout joints charge nowaways. Sounds like a great deal!
With that, let’s get our Italian grind on! First to arrive at the table is a complimentary basket of their house bread rolls…
As they appear to be, which our server confirmed, their bread is essentially baked roll-up versions of their house pizza crust. That said, it’s seasoned with just the right amount of salt, while the lightly-toasted, semi-firm “shell” and glutenous, yet light and airy interior bring it all home.
The house marinara sauce it’s accompanied with is rather low-key, as far as infusion of herbs go, yet it does have a good balance of sweetness and acidity to it. Some may find it a bit too plain as far as seasonings go, yet you can always zest it up by adding your own Parmesan and/or red pepper flakes provided in shaker bottles at each table. As always for me, more cheese please.
For appetizer, we all shared a massive platter of their Fried Calamari…
Bella Mia Pizzeria – Fried Calamari. $8.95
These are served with the same house marinara sauce that’s served with the complimentary bread rolls, which the sauce is “bottomless”, and our friendly server lady was more than happy to refill for us throughout our meal.
Both the Calamari squid’s head (ring) and leg parts were decently tender and fresh tasting, with nothing “funky” going on. I found the legs had better flavor and texture, being more characteristic of Octopus (tako) than squid. The Calamari’s batter was lightly golden-airy and crispy, being sort of “Tempura-ish”, with barely if any salt or other seasonings at all in it, allowing primarily the marinara dipping sauce and lemon to provide that.
Now on to the main course, where we begin with birthday girl Diner C’s choice, Bella Mia Pizzeria’s Chicken Marsala with Linguine Pasta…
As you may already be able to tell, the portions here at Bella Mia are very generous, with each entree easily enough to share between two hungry adults and walk out with satisfied tummies. While that Calamari app’ we ordered certainly was enough to sate all us five hungry adults’ appetites ahead of the main course.
As for the Chicken Marsala, like all our entrees, it arrived at the table PIPING HOT, with visible steam steadily billowing off the plate for at least a minute while sitting there. Already a good sign! Upon first bite, Diner C immediately noted the Linguine pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, followed with a big thumbs-up for the Marsala Sauce it was evenly coated with. The two generously-sized chicken breasts were also very tasty, tender ‘n moist.
Summing it up, she gives Bella Mia Pizzeria’s take on Chicken Marsala very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.
Next up we have Diner AA’s choice, which must be noted, she came intent on ordering her usual favorite, eggplant, hoping to try Bella Mia’s Eggplant Parmigiana. Unfortunately our server broke the news that they were out of Eggplant. What? Needless to say, Diner AA was very disappointed, but what else can you do? So she simply moved her selection to the nearest, most similar dish in preparation and ordered the Chicken Parmigiana with Linguine Pasta…
Having all the same aforementioned positive attributes of Diner C’s Chicken Cacciatore, Diner AA also gave a thumbs-up 3-SPAM Musubi of approval for Bella Mia’s Chicken Parmigiana.
Switching out a bed of pasta for a roasty-toasty, seriously super-sized bread roll, Diner E decided try Bella Mia Pizzeria’s Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub…
As always, the (in this case ooey-molten meltin’ Mozzarella cheesy-gooey) cross-cut view…
Straight to the point without much said, Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives this 2 SPAM Musubi.
Here’s another order/example of the same Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub that came out of the kitchen (right behind our table)…
If you’re not quite in the mood for a (sub) sandwich or pizza in pie form, consider having the best of both worlds by ordering Bella Mia’s Stromboli…
Essentially a Stromboli is a “Pizza Pocket”, except here at Bella Mia, the Stromboli arrives at the table MASSIVELY PUMPED UP like an edible version of the over-the-top ‘roided-out Incredible Hulk, if that helps explain the dramatic visual and psychological impact it has imposing itself upon gawking table guests. NNNNNNNNO-O-O-OH! GGGRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! lol
To give you some scope of scale, notice the size of Diner A’s iPhone in comparison to the Stromboli laid out on the plate in front of him…
Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll
While it appears imposingly massive upon arrival in whole form, most of the Stromboli’s size is from the crust being “pumped-up” with hot air during the baking process. Cutting it open reveals that, where you’ll then see the sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives and mozarella cheese lay mostly at the bottom quadrant of its puffed-up, cavernous interior space…
It’s always visually stimulating and taunting to the tummy when molten ooey-gooey cheese and other yum-yums come spillin’ out like that. Ooohh…. ahhhhh…
Of course this thing has so much girth, you’d need a mouth that opens up as gaping wide as a feeding Basking Shark in order to heave this in your mouth as is. So Diner A quickly devised a “plan of attack” in taking on Bella Mia’s “Strombilinator” (I made that name up, but sounds kinda’ cool, huh?!), where he cut basically flattened the “poofed-up” crust and cut the entire thing up into bite-size pieces more reasonable for the average human…
How was it? Deliciouso! Diner A was notably fond of their Pepperoni, which had a nicely-spiced and very “meaty” flavor to it, which I got to try a piece and concur to that. The sauce in it also had plenty of zest, while as a whole, of course how can all that other good stuff in there all smothered melted Mozarella Cheese NOT taste awesome? Because it was, simply AWESOME! Adding to that awesomeness filling it, the obviously well-toasted crust it was encased in had a nice crunch on the surface, while underneath it, the “meat” of the crust had a nice, glutenous, yet airy “chew” factor going on, just like their house pizza crust-based bread rolls had.
Summing it up, Diner A gives Bella Mia’s “Strombilinator” (ha ha!) an Incredible Hulk hoppin’ 4 SPAM Musubi. (Hey, that’s two completely different “menacing superheroes” in one sentence lol). Seriously though, he enjoyed it so much, he noted he wants to bring his family back here soon to try it, he enjoyed it so much. Especially considering the portion and prices, which are indeed very family-friendly.
Last but never least, yours truly decided to try Bella Mia’s Spaghetti Meatballs..
And no, I didn’t order this just because it was the Monday special of the day, as I actually had my mind set upon seeing it on the regular menu, before taking notice there was a special on it. Yet hey, for just $6.95 (that’s $3 off the regular price), shoots, hook me up! Yet even though it was highly discounted in price, it surely didn’t appear they compensated with a smaller portion, that’s for sure!
And how was it? Very good. Like all the dishes the others ordered, my Spaghetti Meatball “platter” (because it was practically sized as one) arrived at the table PIPING HOT. Also like the other linquine-based pasta dishes, my spaghetti noodles were cooked perfectly al dente. The sauce tasted like the same “low key” house Marinara they use for the complimentary bread rolls and Fried Calimari we were served. Which again didn’t have much in the way of a complex combination of herb in it, yet was well balanced in sweet and acidic, the latter of, which is always an important factor in any good Marinara sauce.
As for the three meatballs topping the spaghetti and smothered in Marinara sauce, they were fairly large, where I’d say each one was about the size of a racquetball. Unlike that hilarious scene in The Mask, these “meat-a-balls” certainly weren’t spicy, nor were they infused much with herbs. Yet they did have a nice balance of what tasted like a combination of ground beef, pork and bread crumbs, with what also tasted like simple salt and pepper seasoning. Quite plain, actually, yet it was still tasty and very moist. If there’s anything to improve, I’d say it just needed to be browned more on the outside to kick up its meaty flavor.
Summing it up, I give Bella Mia’s Spaghetti Meatball 2 SPAM Musubi, while I must once again note the incredible value at just $6.95 for the Monday daily special on this dish. Can’t beat that!
While I didn’t ask, I’m assuming the customer who ordered this Meatballs on Penne Pasta requested that instead of Spaghetti, yet still got the Spaghetti Meatballs Monday special $6.95 price …
Don’t forget, there’s also “Lasagna Tuesday”, “Alfredo Wednesday”, “Stromboli Thursday” and “1 Topping 10″ Pizza Fridays” $6.95 daily specials at Bella Mia, which that alone is worth the trip here.
Summing it up, we all enjoyed our lunch at Bella Mia Pizzaria. Service was friendly and attentive, and while the entrees took a while to come out (about 20 minutes), the relaxed ambiance and reward of having all our dishes arrive at the table together at once, each fresh made, piping hot, and overall well prepared ‘n tasty, made the wait worth it. I’m definitely returning again to try their pizza, as well ordering my very own “Strombolinator”. That’s some good eats right there!
Bella Mia Pizzeria. Check ’em out!
Bella Mia Pizzeria
2222 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
Tel. (808) 941-4400
Bella Mia Pizzeria menu (1.1mb 2-page PDF; current as of 2/11)
The Tasty Island rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)
P.S. Us “Yelpers” recently had an online discussion on “Ghetto Recipes“, where everyone brought up their favorite “poor man’s grub” either while growing up and/or when times were tough. Not that now is any different for many folks.
With that, being Hawaii-based “Yelpers”, “dishes” that came up naturally included just about EVERYTHING and ANYTHING with RICE. That’s a given. Then there were other desperate or weird “recipes” that were mentioned when the wallet’s thin, including the venerable dry, uncooked saimin (the stiff Maruchan and Nissin brand kinda’ stuff) eaten straight outta’ the package, and Spaghetti that uses Ketchup as its “Marinara Sauce”.
Well, speaking of ketchup being used as a desperate measure for a desperate time, recently I was “desperately” craving a tasty snack, where not having everything I needed on hand with what I had to work with, I came up with a new recipe I’ve at least temporarily named “Jiffy Salsa”, a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa”…
You’re probably now saying, “No you didn’t. You didn’t! Please tell me you didn’t do that!” Yes, I did my friends. YES. I. DID. lol!!!!
The deal was, we had this “ginormous” bag of Costco-issue Organic Tortilla Chips that was sitting around in our office pantry and nobody was eating it, as we ran out of REAL Salsa to go along with it. Yet our little pantry area also has an assortment of condiment packets saved from past lunches stashed away in a jar. So I thought to myself “Hmmmmm, I wonder? What if I make a “Quickie Salsa” by combining several condiment packets of fast food ketchup with a condiment packet or two of fast food taco sauce?” So that’s exactly what I did, and guess what? It turned out pretty darned tasty and a pretty darned acceptable substitute for the real deal, I kid you not!
Of course, like most fast ‘n cheap foods (specifically, PROCESSED FOODS), this here “Ghetto Salsa” isn’t gonna’ be praised about and graced on the cover of your periodical HMO members’ magazine anytime soon. Yet that’s besides the point here. We’ll save the trip to WHOLE
FOODS PAYCHECK for another post.
For this — ehem, cough, cough — “recipe”, I simply combined exactly 5 packets of ketchup with 1 packet of taco sauce, as we only had that one packet of taco sauce remaining in the jar, and, cha-cha-cha, ariba- ariba, “Jiffy Salsa”!…
The cumin and other spices in the (Tex-Mex) taco sauce “Mexicanized” the ketchup, where I swear, if I only had real tomatoes I could dice up and throw in there, this would be very close in taste to at least mass-produced, bottled (processed) salsa.
If I ever make it again (stress “IF” and “EVER”), I’d go with a ratio of 4 packets ketchup to 1 packet taco sauce, as this batch was a just little too sweet from the ketchup, while it also could have used just a little more of them “Mexicanized” taco sauce spices to “salsafy” it.
Perhaps add some chopped onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime along with that, and shoots, it would probably taste almost as good as the fresh stuff! Well duh, then that’s pretty much at least “half fresh salsa”. lol
Anyhow, if you ever happen to have a lonely bag of leftover Tortilla Chips sitting just around with no fresh or bottled salsa to finish it up with, “raid” your fast food condiment packets stash jar and dig up the ketchup and taco sauce, combine it in a ratio as suggested above or to your own personal taste, serve with Tortilla Chips and enjoy.
“Jiffy Salsa, a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa”. Try it. If you’re craving a tasty snack, yet your options are limited, you just might like it! For what it’s worth (free), winnahz!
Hmmmm, now to brainstorm what I can “creatively” do with all them leftover fast food condiment packets of Aloha Shoyu. ;-)