Beautiful day, beautiful night, beautiful food.
Bella Notte has become a staple of the Lexington Italian food scene, providing some of the most visually appealing, color balanced dishes, that I’ve seen.
Bella Notte is located on Nicholasville Road, just past Fayette Mall. Parking is a pain in the ass when it’s busy. Just go across the street into Chuy’s parking lot.
The restaurant itself is pretty unique inside with dark wood floors and bar and fake tree in the middle of the main dining room. The tree is actually pretty cool with string lights although probably difficult to keep dust from collecting.
Try to get a seat on the patio which has fewer tables so is less busy with servers and people constantly trying to squeeze through. Avoid it during the hot summer months or the cold winter months, as you would avoid any patio. I did see Calipari and team eating there last year…
I’ve eaten at Bella Notte a hundred time since they opened – it was at one time, one of my favorite restaurants in town. With changes in the menu, I cooled to the restaurant and have not gone as often as I used to. They did go back to offering a seasonal menu and removed the pesky peppers from the calamari appetizer, changes that make me happy.
If you’re getting an appetizer, try the calamari ($9). It comes with this amazing dill sauce that uses lemon to bring out the flavors of the squid. The fried zucchini sticks ($7) are a good bet as well. Or you could just do what we do, get the sampler appetizer, Fritto Misto ($10) and have both of these as well as some serviceable fried mozzarella.
One of my favorite dishes is the Penne Spinachi ($13, add chicken for another $4) with a nice bite to the Gorgonzola sauce. The nuttiness of the cheese pairs well with the walnuts. The fresh spinach tossed with the hot pasta and sauce is just wilted and provides a beautiful color splash to the dish. I used to get it with the chicken (sliced breast meat) but lately, I just get the pasta.Other favorites are the Penne Kalamata (olives, chicken, pine nuts with a butter/oil sauce, $13) and Chicken Marsala (although I could use many more mushrooms, $14.95).
The last time I went, I tried the Seafood Linguini ($17). The dish was beautiful with a pile of al dente pasta covered in a surprisingly spicy tomato sauce with a large amount of shrimp, fish, and calamari throughout. There were a few clam shells but I think the clams must have wiggled their way out before making it to my fork. The grilled lemons were a nice touch and provided the brightness the seafood needed. The grilled ciabatta was also a nice visual touch.
Also tried was the Lasagna with tomato meat sauce ($11). Cutting through the layers of curly noodles provided a pretty picture of cheese and herbs smothered in the sauce.
Bread is provided with an herb blend and oil. The peasant style bread has a nice crust with a soft inside, perfect for sopping up the sauce from any dish.
I’ve tried most of the items on the menu. Really, I’ve only had one dish that I would have sent back were I a more direct person. Some dishes aren’t anything special, bland and plain.
On Friday and Saturday nights while you’re waiting for your table, taste some of the tapenade on the “piano sheet” bread. The blend of olives, garlic, and oil spread thick on a not too thin piece of bread goes well with a light glass of wine.
Bella Notte is local, originally established as a concept restaurant in 1996 by the owners of Fazoli’s. They offer locally sourced foods as well as gluten free options. Consider making a reservation online or by phone if going on a weekend evening or just go and enjoy that tapanade.