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Food Review: Bella Aquila

On the plate of Reviewer No. 1

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It's hard to say the name Bella Aquila without dragging out your L's and wanting to kiss-kiss someone's cheeks. But besides the zuppas and formaggios littering the menu, Bella Aquila, which means "beautiful eagle" in Italian, is unequivocally more Eagle than it is Italian. From the expansive, lush patio with cascading waterfalls to the crisp white linens and sage-hued napkins, it's refined in an inoffensive, earth-toned way.

When my mom and I first arrived for a late lunch, we immediately eyed the patio--a large, empty oasis with a canopy of beige and sienna umbrellas overlapping like lily pads. The Greenbelt cuts a path adjacent to the patio and makes for great summertime people-watching--kids with blow-up alligator floats hoisted above their heads, giggling teens with river-matted hair and jogging stroller moms. After a few short minutes wallowing in the heat of the afternoon, we decided to join the wiser diners clustered around the window tables inside.

Our waiter adjusted the shade next to our table to prevent any further sun issues, then set down a basket of naan-like flatbread wedges. Fine grains of cornmeal crumbled off in a cascade of dust after I smeared on a healthy swipe of the accompanying Bella Spread--a pungent, rosy compote of parmesan romano, garlic, butter and cayenne pepper. As soon as we got wind that the kitchen was baking up a fresh batch of the flavorful flatbread, we cast aside our half-eaten triangles and waited greedily for the warm stuff. If the bread was that tasty cold, we knew it would be mind-blowing right from the oven. Oh, were we right.

Sipping from a couple glasses of wine--the Sycamore Lane chardonnay ($5) and the 3 Horses Vineyards rose ($8)--we got down to business with the lunch menu (served until 4 p.m.). Though most dishes lean heavily on Italian staples like tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and pine nuts, Bella Aquila also knows when to play to their audience, offering things like green goddess dressing and sweet potato fries. After some time studying the insalatas, picciole pizzes, pastas and paninos, I noticed the menu's prices looked a tad out of whack. While hearty pasta plates like the smoked salmon ravioli ($12) or the Crema di Pesto e Spinaci ($10) seemed aptly priced, classic fare like the simple Caprese salad ($11) or bruschetta ($9) were strangely expensive.

My mom and I both decided to veer toward the light side with salmon dishes--hers the grilled salmon with lemon dill fettuccine, mine the Formaggio di Capra salad ($11, with salmon added).

Exclaiming that the salmon had "a nice, crispy dew" on the outside, my mom polished off most of her artfully presented plate, save for a few errant mushrooms and slivers of yellow pepper that cowered on the side. My salad was a less straightforward undertaking--a combo of mixed greens, warm apple chutney, glazed pecans and herbed chevre doused in a spiced oregano vinaigrette--that required measured, contemplative chewing to make sense of. The chevre was served in a single jawbreaker-sized fried sphere, but was so decadent that it wound up being more than enough to accompany the entire salad. Though my dish had all the comforting, cinnamon-y sweetness of a Thanksgiving dinner, the whole warm-apple-pie-on-a-salad thing threw me for a loop.

Though neither of us are big on sweets, we scanned the dessert menu for kicks. Mama mia. When I saw the sweetened ricotta and mascarpone-filled cannoli dipped in dark chocolate and pistachios ($8) and the blueberry cobbler martini ($8) with vanilla and blueberry vodkas and a graham cracker crust rim, I kissed the tips of my fingers in a cliched gesture of jubilant glee. Dessert on the Bella Aquila patio in the cool of evening is most definitely in my near future.

--Tara Morgan believes cobbler is just pie that gave up.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Bella Aquila here.

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