Bettola: An Upper West Side Progressive Italian That Will Have You Coming Back For More

I really enjoyed my recent trip to Bettola–while it does not quite count as a new eaterie (it has been in business 12 years), it came under new management and got a new chef back in May 2016…and he is not your usual kind of chef.  Vlado Kolenic was a huge rock star in Czechoslavakia who defected to the US in 1979 and later played all the regular Sunset Bouvelard clubs with his band TAKTICI in the heyday of hair metal circa 1985 to 1992. Kolenic was always cooking up creative new dishes for himself and friends and many fans of his cuisine told him that he was good enough to become a professional chef and restaurant owner. That did not happen until he met partner Giga Leszay on a skiing trip, and they decided to purchase Bettola together, which Giga had been managing. The rest, as they say, is NYC restaurant history. Bettola has gotten rave reviews on Yelp!, and guests love traditional items such as brick oven pizza as much as Kolenic’s fusion items such as filet mignon in a wine based sauce tossed over delicious homemade fettucine.

I had the filet mignon called Fantastico and it was a surprisingly light dish but the portion was big enough for two to share. Priced at only around $25, there is at least eight ounces of marinated prime filet mignon in this dish making it one of the great bang for the bucks on the menu. It comes topped with exotic mushrooms, asparagus and herbs. For fans of marinated flank steak, there is also a lovely dish featuring this tender cut with a medley of veggies including tender small red roasted potatoes, red peppers and onions.

Did I fail to mention the wonderful appetizers serves at Bettola? The Zuppe Di Campagne is wonderful and very healthy–it’s white beans and wonderful locally grown veggies including asparagus in a light vegetable broth that is well seasoned. My dining partner Cindi and I also shared the wonderful eggplant–which is actually a “side”–as an appetizer. It was done in a healthy style as it was basically parmigiana style without the breading. It was simple layers of tender eggplant with Kolenic’s wonderful homemade tomato sauce, artisanal melted mozzarella cheese and coarsely chopped fresh basil.

For dessert, Cindi and I dug into a dessert called Romeo’s Tears whose recipe was invented by the talented Kolenic. He melts some of his favorite Dutch chocolate down and pours it into round molds, then surrounds each homemade chocolate “ball” with crepe batter and deep fried them. The balls are then topped with a homemade whipped cream that has a strong vanilla bean taste that is simply divine. His tiramisu is what totally blew me away, though–it does so because although it contains the usually ladyfingers soaked in rum and espresso, it had a “cakier” vibe that most recipes. I like that–it gave the tiramisu a firmness that I loved. The marscapone used is of exceptional quality that gives this legendary Southern Italian dessert an especially fresh taste.

The address of the romantic and dimly lit restaurant with one of the most beautiful brick pizza ovens in New York is 412 Amsterdam Avenue between 79th and 80th Streets. Reservations are recommended but not necessary. For more info, go to http://www.bettolanyc.com. Phone number is 212-787-1660.

Be sure to check out Bettola’s Beatles Brunch on Sunday where you can check out Kolenic’s musical chops as well as his culinary chops–and be sure to check out the steak and eggs special called The Ballad Of John And Yolk-O. I have the feeling if John Lennon was still alive and living at the Dakota, he would be coming over for this yummy brunch dish, LOL! There is also a happy hour every weeknight and a wonderful $10 kids menu. There is a special “Skinny Pizza” for the health-conscious that you can see baked right in front of you. Be sure to check out this wonderful, homey yet romantic spot on the UWS–you will not be disappointed

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