Word of Mouth

The charm of Bella Bistro lies in good vibes and good vegetables

Shelly Steinhaus opened Bella Bistro, 7702 Ralston Road, three years ago hoping to lure regulars who would dine with her several times a week. To accomplish that, her restaurant changes like a chameleon as the week progresses. On weeknights, it offers an enchanting culinary vacation to after-work diners who come in to relax over simpler entrees like pizza and pasta. On weekends, a vibrant, social crowd fills the space to overflowing for finer dining. Steinhaus and her sous chef, Chris Wray, accentuate the dichotomy by changing the menu twice a week, and a masterful understanding of seasonality prevails as a common theme. For the most part, the kitchen shows restraint in showcasing good ingredients, allowing produce to shine. Wedges of candy-like cantaloupe, slices of juicy tomato at the peak of ripeness and plump, earthy figs take turns in the spotlight, each lifting the corresponding dishes to new heights. The kitchen fares particularly well during the week, as weekend crowds are likely responsible for pushing the chefs to their capacity. Dessert, though, is consistently stellar, featuring summer fruit used just as skillfully in sweet courses as in savory.

Read more about my charming evenings at Bella Bistro here tomorrow, when the review will be posted along with a slide show.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk