Even though I’m a huge fan of all the new restaurants starting up in the Triangle, it’s always fun to re-visit old-school favorites. And when you think of Italian food, Bella Monica is often mentioned by Raleigh locals. This long-time favorite has been part of the neighborhood for years and is known for its flat-breads and Italian eats. And luckily, I headed over for an early dinner on a Friday evening to catch up with a friend and their great Italian eats!
The first thing you’ll notice about Bella Monica is that despite all the local kudos, it sits in a humble little strip plaza and doesn’t look like much from the outside. Their patio is enclosed by a temporary enclosure for colder weather and I’d have to guess that Bella Monica is just one of those local favorites that just grew over time. Stepping inside I was immediately greeted by the host and brought over to a window table. The dining room is a bit tight with a cozy bar in the corner and wine rack behind it. Bella Monica is one of the closer dining spots to PNC Arena which is why the place is unusually busy, reservations are recommended for most evenings.
After my guest shows up, we put in orders for our drinks and Bella Monica’s famous focaccia is brought to the table. The focaccia is a beautiful square of plump baked goodness served with some olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of onions-chives on top. It’s a tasty start and could be a meal in itself according to my dining companion. We put our orders in and we’re doing the beef carpaccio appetizer along with the chicken parmigiana for my main!
As we’re waiting for our appetizer, I scan the room and it’s a very diverse crowd. Couples, families, dates trying to get to PNC arena. It’s the type of crowd you get when you’ve been running a good restaurant for many years. Shortly the plate of carpaccio comes out and it’s a bright dish of thinly sliced beef topped with spicy arugula and parmesan shards. A bit of olive oil completes the dish and it’s a nice palate cleanser before we move on to the rest of our meal.
My plate of chicken parmigiana is brought to the table and it looks classic. A portion of spaghetti smothered in a bright red marinara and sprinkled with some parsley. It’s a generous portion of very tender and nicely fried chicken breast over al dente pasta and a bright red sauce, very nice! But of course half the meal goes home with me, even if I COULD have eaten it all in one sitting.
Service is excellent at Bella Monica, the staff is very gracious and responsive to all the questions coming from the table and they’ve got a busy dining room. Over the course of the evening we also chat with the chef a bit and learn of a new Bella Monica restaurant (Stellino’s) being opened at Parkside Town Commons in Southwest Cary. And given how busy Bella Monica is, it makes total sense for them to open up another outpost in the Triangle. While part of me wishes they would expand their restaurant in Raleigh, it just wouldn’t be the same for the time-tested formula of great Italian eats in a cozy family setting.