I'm going to start off by doing something very unusual by offering a simple thank-you to Bella Aquila.
Regular BW readers know that I'm not a reviewer who's easily pleased. Lately, in fact, I've had better meals at my regular bagel joint than at the eateries in Boise with the best reputations for a decent meal. Nor have I had much success beyond Boise lately; some readers may remember that in June, I'd sworn off Sunday brunch in Eagle completely.
Brunch at Bella Aquila one recent Sunday, however, has me singing a different tune.
Arriving just ahead of the crowd afforded my dining companion and me one of the best patio tables in the house with an idyllic riverside view. After stocking up on coffee, water and bottomless mimosas, we set to work on what would prove the day's most difficult task: choosing from the menu.
Would it be smoked chicken and sweet potato hash served with poached eggs and Hollandaise or a smoked trout plate with mini bagels and cream cheese? Cashew chicken salad on cabbage or lasagna with house-made noodles? I finally settled on French toast stuffed with ricotta and topped with a Grand Marnier strawberry sauce ($10). My date chose the Italian dip with sirloin and basil provolone ($12). However, when we were put to the task of ordering, we each made a last-minute switch. Crab Benedict ($12) for me and steak and eggs ($15) for he.
Based solely on the execution of those two dishes, I'd be confident giving Bella Aquila high marks. Crab Benedict arrived as two teetering stacks of English muffin, sliced tomato, avocado, poached egg and shredded crab under a thin veil of silky Hollandaise. The accompanying fruit cup was a modest portion of just ripe and ice-cold fruit (see Page 29 for my account of how rare a find I consider that). What the menu described as an 8-ounce sirloin on the plate of steak and eggs came out of the kitchen looking more like a 12-ounce rib-eye, and that was certainly no complaint. Steak nicely done at medium rare, eggs nicely done at over medium, and lightly fried breakfast potatoes a simple side.
The food was impressive, but more so the attention to detail. A good restaurant nails the food. A great restaurant nails the experience. Bella Aquila is the kind of restaurant that falls squarely into the latter category. Being riverside is a pleasant advantage, especially when a one-man show delivers live and subtle Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffett covers. Personal coffee creamers, chilled hours ahead of time, were a simple touch. As were wicker baskets rather than the more common industrial restaurant tubs for a heap of rolled silverware at the servers' station. As was a conscientious owner who turned over bread plates at already set tables in advance of guests who'd expect dust- and dirt-free plates on the patio. Service was impeccable and continued to top off the coffee and mimosas even after the bill was paid. A chocolate-covered after-meal mint with Bella Aquila's name on the wrapper proved that the proprietors had considered every step of a diner's experience, from the first to the final moments in their restaurant.
And yet, none of those details is the one that really won us over.
In those few minutes between the ordering and the eating, our server arrived with a basketful of warm, house-made pastries--a bread course for breakfast. A delicate blueberry muffin topped with sugar and almond slivers and a rich slice of oatmeal raspberry bar were the first hints that we were in for a great meal.
So thank you, Bella Aquila, for restoring my faith that one restaurant out there knows that a good meal is about more than the food.
--Rachael Daigle will return for dinner at Bella Aquila with bells on.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Bella Aquila here.