Sunday, May 27, 2007

O yes! Bella Vita!

A colleague had highly recommended this "Gastronomia e Vineria Italiana" and when I and my travel companion Laila Nilsen looked for a place to eat lunch, it was conveniantly close. As Laila has lived in Rome, she is hard to impress when it comes to Italian cooking but in this case we both ended up speechless.

Location: BBBB+

The restaurant is located in Prinsensgate in downtown Oslo and is dead easy to find. Its location is however hardly the most romantic place to eat. There were a few tables outside, but it was hardly tempting to sit there due to the traffic.

Atmosphere: BBBBB

This used to be an old pharmacy and much of its original interior has been preserved. Wonderful wooden details, carved columns, small niches where bottles of potions used to stand, are now used to store wine glasses, bottles, and ingredients. The interior has been beautifully matched by a large counter where much of the ingredients for the antipasti are stored.

The tables and chairs are rustique, in light wood, in contrast to the dark patinated wooden interior. That is maybe the only detail that I did not feel matched the interior. But this is hardly enough to threaten my five point rating. There were nicely foldes napkins by each place at the table and on the middleyou find a large round plate waiting for the great food to come.

Price: BBBBB

We paid a little over €70 for two. This may seem much, but we could have reduced the price with €30 if we had not ordered two bruschetti and two glass of wine to match the antipasto. The antipasto misto to share would made us both very satisfied. But even so - the food was worth every Euro.

Service: BBBBB-

The service was excellent. As most of the staff were Italian we ordered in English, so no English menu was needed. The restaurant was seriously overstaffed. They were relaxed and very kind, talking Italian to each other as they prepared our food. This is one of these places where you can just close you eyes and easily find yourself in Naples or Milan, rather than in Oslo in May.

This service was swift, and our bruschetti arrived quickly followed by the warm and cold antipasti, always served with a mile.

The food: BBBBB

The food was great!!!

When you order bruschetti in another Italian restaurant you get a seriously overpriced slice of baguette or french bread with garlic, tomatoes and other toppings.

Not here! Laila got a large slice of imported Italian bread garnished with loads of tomatoes, parma ham, shaved parmeggiano reggiano, topped with ruccula. Seriously enough when you want a simple lunch.

My bruschetta was equally impressive.

Italian bread with tomatoes, melting gorgonzola and Salsiccia sausage with dried herbs. Salsiccia is a sausage produced in most regions of Italy, made from pork and seasoned with garlic and herbs typical of the regions in which they are produced.

The constrast of the melting gorgonzola and the tasty salsiccia was perfect, and would be normally be enough for lunch. So we were more than satisfied, and we did not expect much from our antipasti.

First the hot antipasti - succulent homemade meatballs (centre) slightly undercooked leaving a deliciously creamy centre. Well seasoned and dipped in a traditional tomato sauce.

Then two grilled slices of parma ham (left) folded over a rich white cheese - mouthwatering!

Right we had two types of fried dumplings, the larges one made from potatoes (gnocchi), and the small were made from fish.

Yum - and there were more to come!!

The cold antipasti left us seriously speechless.

Cold cuts - mortadella, the delicious fresh sausage, salami with whole peppercorns, and thin slices of parma ham.

Fried slices of aubergine, zucchini and red peppers.

Italian cheese, taleggio, mozzarella, and two other varieties.

Tunafish with cold butterbeans, lettuce and tomatoes. The cold antipasti were served with bread, grissini, and seasoned olive oil and would easily please two for lunch.

We ordered two bottles of Italian beer - Moretti, delicious with the bruscetti and the hot antipasti, but as we started our cold dish, we ordered the red wine of the house - a Ca' Rugate Campo Lavei Valpolicella. Expensive (€7 a glass), served in large wine glasses. Ruby coloured, with an elegant aroma of red forest berries, oak and herbs. MMMM!

By this time we were so satisfied, and could not think of visiting the Gelateria next door for a coffee and a Gelato. We finished our wine and ordered a espresso - a perfect end of an exquisite experience.

The total score of our Bella Vita Experience: BBBBB- (4,85)

This is as close to authentic Italian cooking you can get outside Italy. I cannot wait to enjoy their pasta.

Adress: Prinsensgate 22, N-0157 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 41 10 81
Fax: +47 22 41 10 80

See other restaurants visited in Oslo and around the world here on Enjoy Food & Travel!

See restaurants reviewed here on Enjoy Food & Travel

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