As winter morphs into spring—and all that follows—there’s still time to try some of the many restaurants that crowd the HarborWalk area. The view is still great, the parking is still there for the taking, and the restaurant staffs are still delighted to see you.
With that in mind, my family and I ventured out on a recent chilly weeknight to Bella Sera Bistro. The restaurant occupies a ground floor, and through the windows you can see the warmly lit interior. The blue and white awning reads “Italian Restaurant,” and if that won’t pull you in on a hungry February night, you must have had a big lunch.
We were greeted on entry, and our hostess drew instant favor by telling my six-year-old daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) that she looked like a princess. I agree, but my prejudice is ironclad, so I like hearing it from others. TD is polishing her restaurant manners, and these polite little exchanges go a long way. The hostess thoughtfully seated us at a table that offered TD and her working Daddy a perfect view of the dining room.
Bella Sera’s main dining room is rectangular, with tables neatly lining the walls and a line of seating down the middle. It’s simple and orderly. Floors are polished wood, one wall is lined with wine racks and bottles, and there’s a small bar with a few seats toward the back. The decor is likewise simple, symmetrical and calming. Co-owner David Seering has installed a mini-stage at the end opposite the bar, and the piano is not there just for display.
The menu offers appetizers, a list of pasta and pasta specialties, salads, fish and seafood, meat, and a separate menu of assorted house pizzas. In addition to a la carte, there’s an “Italian Family Style” option featuring a chef’s choice starter, two pastas, and a meat course. At $32.95 for two diners, it looks like a good deal.
We started with an order of fried ravioli, served with marinara. We got eight hot, crunchy pouches filled with creamy ricotta and herbs, and the tangy marinara nicely balanced the richness of the ravioli. Even TD, who is not quite as venturesome as I hope she will become, was tempted to try one, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Other apps include meatballs, fried calamari, bruschetta, fried mozzarella sticks, mussels diavola (with spicy crushed tomato sauce), and shrimp al forno (baked with seasoned breadcrumbs). There’s an antipasto listed among the salads, and a daily soup.
The range of pasta dishes is wide, and you can go light or more substantial. My wife and I were hungry. I chose ravioli al aragosta (lobster) with vodka cream sauce. My wife ordered cappellini Toscana—pasta with shrimp, artichokes, capers, olives, mushrooms, roasted peppers, garlic and olive oil. TD played it safe, ordering the chicken strips. Oh well.
Mr. Seering took the stage, and moved smoothly through a mellow playlist that included songs made famous by Paul Anka, Neil Diamond, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett. He livened the mood, sparked friendly conversation, and his cover of “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” went perfectly with the food.
The entrees came. Lobster ravioli is always risky for me—I have impossibly high expectations with lobster. Bella Sera delivered. The filling was generous—sweet and satisfying. The tomato tinged vodka cream sauce had exactly the right tangy balance, and the lumps of shrimp scattered on top did not bother me a bit either. My wife’s cappellini was picture-perfect, an expertly composed plate of food incorporating sweet (shrimp), smoky (roasted pepper), salty (olives, capers and artichokes), and meaty (mushrooms).
Other options include rigatoni with sausage, fettuccine Alfredo, linguine with meatballs, stuffed shells, meat or cheese ravioli, lasagna, linguine Bolognese, ravioli with kale and spinach, manicotti, linguine with mixed seafood, blackened salmon, baked sea bass, fried seafood, chicken parmesan, piccata, marsala or valdostana, mixed cacciatore pasta, filet mignon, or lamb chops alla Toscana.
The desserts offered that night were cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu and cannoli. My wife declined dessert, so TD and I heeded Clemenza’s advice and took the cannoli. She’d never tried it and was full of questions, then full of cannoli. You get two, with dense creamy ricotta and chocolate chip filling. Just right, just enough.
“Bella Sera” means “beautiful evening,” and both kitchen and staff take that seriously. It’s a warm little enclave and an excellent choice for a family meal, or that much-needed romantic evening.
- Art Classes & Workshops
- Art Events
- Art Galleries
- Call to Artists
- Nikki Hedrick: 5 Ways You Can Support the Arts
- Robin Wiesneth: My Creative Kickstarts
- Bruce Collier: 10 Things I’d Never Write in a Restaurant Review
- Nikki Hedrick: Misconceptions About Vegetarianism
- Restaurant Guide
- Taco Variations and Cool Stuff to Look at in Santa Rosa Beach
- Where to Spend Your Happy Hours in Beachcomberland
- Aimee Shaffer: My Favorite Animal Events to Emcee
- Nikki Hedrick: 6 Things You Can Do to Make Your Wedding Day Easier
- “Hey!” 5 Musicians Who Inspire Cheryl Jones
- Beachcomberland’s Greatest Hits
- Bobby Tomberlin: My Earl Thomas Conley Top 5
- Drink On It – Blake Shelton’s Favorite Drinking Songs
- Joe Fingas’ Favorite Blues Men and Women
- Live Music
- Nikki Hedrick: How to Become a Concert Photographer
- Woofy Ramone’s 2019 Record Store Day Finds
To get a bunch of people we love in a single issue. To inspire hateful debate on social media. Readers’ attention spans tend to favor shorter pieces these days. Are you bored...
Aimee Shaffer: My Favorite Animal Events to Emcee
In no particular order… The PAWS “On the Throttle” Poker Run. This biker-supported fundraiser, held every mid-March, brings together bikers who travel to several bars and restaurants in Okaloosa and Walton...
David Simmons’ Top 25 Films of All Time
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011) Selma (Ava Duvernay, 2014) Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy, 1989) Persona (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1966) There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas...
Alaqua’s Hero Dogs: Headed for Hollywood?
Alaqua Animal Refuge is proud to announce that four Alaqua alumni dogs have been nominated for the national American Humane Hero Dog Awards, which celebrates the incredible relationship between dogs and people,...
Taco Variations and Cool Stuff to Look at in Santa Rosa Beach
If you love tacos and their variations, but want something more than a fast-food experience—such as servers, a full bar, comfy seats and cool stuff to look at while you eat—Red Fish...
Antiques De France Antiques & Flea Mkt. with over 80+ vendors, lots of unique items to choose from. 230 S.E. Eglin Pkwy. 850-314-7500. SMITH’S ANTIQUES MALL & INTERIORS MARKET 25,000 sq. ft....