Price Range is the average cost per entree. The range does not include drinks, tax or tip.
We are going for averages here, folks.$ = Under $10: My money is funny and my credit won't get it!
$$ = $11 - $20: Just got paid....Friday night!!!
$$$ = $21 - $39: Don't cheat yourself....treat yourself!
$$$$ = Above $40: Splurge baby. Splurge!
CCC: "Triple C" rating. Establishments with this rating have that wow factor -- whether it be exceptional food or world class service. An 'eat-peat' is definitely in order. Consider placing these restaurants on your 'must do' list. Visit at your own risk - these establishments can cause late night cravings.
CC: "Double C" rating. Solid restaurant. Can be either average or above average. They excel in a few categories but may miss the mark in some others. Members will agree that these establishments warrant future visits and will recommend you pay them a visit. You'll find most restaurants with this rating.
C: "Single C" rating. Missing that "it" factor especially as it relates to good cuisine. Triple C members do not recommend this establishment. Not particularly worth the money, gas, time or effort, unless you get a rise out of let-downs. Hold on to your dough and spend it at restaurants with Double or Triple C ratings.
Remember the days of hanging out at LaStrada on lower Westheimer St.? Enjoying those balmy Houston nights, while maxing and relaxing on the spacious balcony upstairs. And the Sunday brunch? OMG, that’s all I’ve got to say about that. If you’ve never had an opportunity to experience LaStrada’s Sunday brunch before they closed their doors, my apologies to you. For the longest that building stood vacant until someone took a chance. That someone is Tony Vallone – the very popular Houston restaurateur. Opening its doors in late July 2010, Caffe Bello is quickly becoming a popular hangout.
I pass this place quite often and have been looking forward to the opportunity to try it out. I was invited to lunch by a dear friend and suggested we give it a try considering its close proximity to both of our downtown jobs. A hop, skip and a jump and we were there. Valet service is available but trust me you will not need it, at least not during the lunch hour – parking is plentiful. The staff was very attentive. Not only did we get service from our assigned waiter, but others dropped in every now and again to make sure all was well. I’m not sure if this is the standard or if it is because we were only one of two groups there at the time. Either way, I liked it!!
So, we’re offered two menus. It was confusing at first, but the waiter was kind enough to explain. You have a full-fledged menu offering everything from pizzettas (little mini pizzas) to grilled pork chops. The portions are full-sized. The type of portion sizes that will probably have you nodding off during that afternoon staff meeting you have to suffer through. Then there’s an express lunch menu which offers a 3-course meal selection – choice of appetizer/salad, entrée and a dessert. And get this, it’s only $14!! I couldn’t pass that up. I selected the Vallone Salad, Pan Roasted Flounder and the Chocolate OMG cake from the express menu’s 3-course meal option. My compadre decided on the Kobe Beef Burger. While we waited, we were served a bouquet of warm, assorted breads. Talk about delish. Especially the pumpkin bread baked with roasted pumpkin seeds on top. It was a perfect balance of sweetness, delicious with or without butter. We tore through two baskets of bread like a school of piranhas on its prey. I was a little embarrassed to keep asking the waiter to bring more. But I couldn’t help myself.
Let’s start with the Vallone salad. I must say the flavors in this salad tied together very nicely. It was a simple salad made with a medley of greens, tomatoes and pieces of mozzarella. The fresh mozzarella provided a nice balance to the tangy house vinaigrette. I think I would have been content with just the salad and pumpkin bread. Just as I got comfortable and almost full from the salad, the main courses were served. I remember it like yesterday the look in Russell’s eyes as he took the first bite out of his burger. He ordered it well done. Now there’s a fine line between well done and well dry. Let’s face it, a lot of restaurants often cross that line. But not the case at Caffe Bello — The chef walked this line with sure grace. The Kobe burger was cooked to perfection, with all the juices left in tack to soak into that wonderfully buttered toasted bun.
The flounder was equally as good. The pan seared fish came served on top of a bed of tomato ragu sauce — a surprisingly nice marriage indeed. The only improvement I would suggest with this dish is more flavors in the sauce. I personally enjoy the taste of garlic and fresh Italian herbs and spices and would have appreciated a bold burst of these flavors on my palate. Besides, a nice flavorful sauce would go perfect with the remaining pumpkin bread.
The waiter then brings out the highlight of the three courses – the OMG cake. Layers of moist chocolate cake with marshmallow mouse-like cream center covered in chocolate ganache. So appropriate this name. After one bite, I swear you will proclaim “Oh-My-God!!” The words will naturally roll off the tongue before you realize what you’ve said. Don’t try and stop it. Just let it all out.
Caffe Bello is worth a try, especially for any of you downtown workers. No lines, excellent service, great food, reasonable prices and back to the office within an hour. Can’t beat that. In the words of Charlie – WINNER!!
Until next time…Cheers!!!
- 1. Ruggles Green – W. Alabama
- 2. Fuzzy’s Pizza & Cafe
- 3. Corelli’s Italian Cafe
- 4. LaGriglia
- 5. Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca