This little Italian BYOB in Bradley Beach offers typical Italian fare which is carefully prepared to order. I have eaten at Bella Sogno (beautiful song) many times and have never been disappointed in the food or the service. There are a few tables outside on the small patio by the front entrance which are right off the street with the remainder being closely placed inside in one small room. Do not let the closeness deter you from eating here.
The appetizers are for the most part, very basic but prepared well. We almost always order the fried calamari to share as this is one of the few places in the area that makes it well. It is cooked very quickly to a very light gold in color and remains very tender while lightly crisp. Not the rubbery garden hose slices that are a frozen product served over-cooked in most Italian restaurants here at the shore. The mussels on the other hand are the previously frozen New Zealand green variety which I find chewy and lacking in freshness and taste. I hope they switch to PEI, or wild caught Atlantic blues, instead.
One of my favorite go to Italian classics is chicken Francaise and they make it perfectly here. It is tender and lemony and served on a bed of cappellini at my request. Another is flounder oreganata. My husband often opts for the veal Capri which is a delightful combination of veal, spinach and prosciutto and mozzarella with a demi-glace reduction. Other excellent choices were the veal Sorrentino and the chicken rigatoni, which is a favorite of one of our friends.
I am looking forward to trying the Pork Chop Bella Sogno made with bananas and rum liqueur that has gotten many raves while I was there. When I crave a well prepared classic Italian American meal, Bella Sogno will continue to be in the forefront of my mind. The little place is busy all year round and reservations are needed, especially in the summer and on weekends. Expect a little, but worthwhile, wait for food from the small kitchen as everything is made to order and tastes like it.
Here is a disturbing little update: The last two times I visited Bella Sogno, with my husband and our friends, there had been a radical reduction (over 50 percent) in portion size on my husband’s veal Capri, on the first visit, and my flounder oreganata on the next. The playing card size of the flounder was pointed out to the server, who called another young lady over, and it was taken back to the kitchen. Our table was curtly instructed – “start eating. This will take a while.” Considering the cooking time for fish is ten minutes per inch of thickness and this was a half an inch, I was not sure what “a while” meant. During that while the server and the other person stood by the kitchen and talked and stared at me. Then someone peeked out of the kitchen at me. I felt very uncomfortable to say the least. The dish was returned with another piece of fish added to it, along with a sizeable portion of vexation. Normally I would not have said anything, regarding portion size but when you order something regularly and suddenly it is not worth the price you are paying – you should speak up; especially after the same thing happened to my husband on a previous visit. He never mentioned it because it was assumed to be accidental.
The following day I sent an email to Bella Sogno regarding my experience. I basically was concerned about changes to my favorite little Italian Restaurant. No response. The owner either does not read emails or just cared not to reply. In fact, with all my visits, I have never seen him unless that was him peeking out of the kitchen.
Our close friends, who are regular customers at this spot, returned there two weeks ago and they also complained of cold and impersonal service, leading me to believe there is no one properly training the staff. A regular customer and a new customer should be treated equally, but knowing who supports you during the off season, is important. It is easy to fill tables at the Jersey Shore between Memorial Day and Labor Day. To make a regular customer feel embarrassed for a shortcoming on the part of the establishment is unacceptable.