I never met a gnocchi I didn’t like. Wait, that’s completely incorrect. As a matter of fact, most people screw up gnocchi. It’s always too tough; it’s easily under or overcooked. But it’s a quintessential Italian dish and most certainly one of the most delicious. Imagine my (pleasant!) surprise of having perfect gnocchi served to me in downtown Campbell.
A Bellagio is a neighborhood gem, kind of tucked between an unimpressive ultralounge and the rest of the contenders on East Campbell Avenue. To be frank, the place looked rather old school (not in a positive way) from the front, a cheesy menu stand and a large, unsubtle sign. But when you’re inside, it’s a bit more contemporary. The front room is a little awkward, with a podium further back than you would expect and a wall that sort of jets out before you, forcing you to follow it. The rooms are dim with antique lanterns, candelit tables and framed artwork that borderlines on generic but is generally pleasing nevertheless.
But as with so many places, you come here for the food. Try the polenta e funghi to start, a hearty platter of rich polenta smothered with roasted mushrooms and a savory porcini mushroom sauce. This dish is seasoned beautifully, with hints of tarragon and black pepper, and it’s refreshingly restrained with garlic and cream. Deliciously unctuous, it is definitely better to share with a group because a little goes a long way. A special that’s not printed on the menu is the burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from both mozzarella and cream, resulting in a soft, buttery texture (the cheese’s name literally means “buttered” in Italian), and is served at room temperature with prosciutto, sliced tomato and basil. A salty cousin to a caprese, this starter is very addicting but could use more acidity. Asking for a few more tomato slices generally does the trick.
And then, the gnocchi, the glorious gnocchi! This is the only pasta I tasted that was house-made, which was quite a disappointment in an Italian restaurant, but it was spot-on. I savored these fluffy little pillows of cloud-like potato practically floating in a velvety gorgonzola cream sauce, minimally garnished with a few sparse chives. Both rich and complex at the same time, I was blown away but its overall lightness on the palate, allowing me to take bite after bite.
For a main course, go for the cacciucco alla livornese, a cioppino of sorts, chockfull of shellfish, calamari and scallops. A less spicy version of the original, the sauce is loaded with white wine and sweet shallot flavor, all components cooked quite well, both shrimp and calamari tender but toothsome.
Also not on the menu, but very good, is a veal dish of sorts, pounded thin and lightly breaded served with grilled asparagus and saffron risotto. The veal, while tender and flavorful, took a backseat to the risotto, actually cooked correctly, a nice al dente creamy bite of rice-like goodness, not the oatmeal-esque mush I have become accustomed to in Italian restaurants locally outside of San Francisco.
Dessert is really the only thing that leaves you wanting. The profiteroles are lackluster at best, very obviously frozen spheres of pastry containing plasticky custard and cream. The chocolate sauce on it was tasty, but could not make up for how bad everything else was. The cannoli was much better, as this one seemed house-made, crispy shell intact and filled with sweet ricotta, mascarpone and chocolate chips, drizzled over with a buttery rum caramel sauce. Although it was much better, I’m not sure it was good enough to finish the remains of my filling middle. To be honest, I would have much rather had some more gnocchi.
33 S. Central Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008
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