Bella Italia Restaurant
10801 Starkey Road, Largo, FL  33771
Phone: (727) 397-9076
Business Hours: 
Monday - Friday 11:00am to 9:30pm   Saturday 12:00pm to 9:30pm.  Closed Sundays, Holidays .

When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn NY, one of my best friend's DAD had an Italian "neighborhood restaurant". 

These were the Mom and Pop places popular with the working class. They differed from the big polished "named" or "made" gourmet places with the "named or made" clientele which had a problem with shootings and bombs.  

Part of the story line in the Godfather is true and that place was in the Bronx. 

You went to this "neighborhood" pizzeria, sub shop and pasta heaven because; You were hungry and past experience told you the food was good; You felt comfortable there in a friendly environment instead of being greeted with "hey or use guys", the phrase "no problem" and so forth.  The portions were big, you felt value, you left "full"; The food was fresh, the place was clean; The aroma was causing your salivary glands into overtime; It was reasonably priced and you felt worth the price. 

I grew up in a food rich environment, Brooklyn is that kind of melting pot in those days. It was an Italian-Jewish neighborhood but today Crown Heights is a little different with strong ethnic groups.

My best friends were Jewish and Italian, an Irish Kid and the G. W. Wingate Basketball Team. Stealthily, after school, I would sneak in the back door with my friend and we would partake of the cooking, like a slice of pizza, till Mom threw us out. 

Bella Italia is that kind of local neighborhood restaurant. Sal and his wife have been there for decades, makes all the dishes from scratch, uses the same quality cheese's and meats that meet his standards (much better than the commercial stuff) and the food is cooked to order. It reminds me of my childhood except he doesn’t leave the backdoor open.

I have a favorite dish Sal makes me there. Spaghetti, and Sausage, simple enough with red peppers, pepper flakes and fresh garlic tossed and cooked with the sauce instead of the sauce served laying on top.  It creates a kind of Fra Diablo heat flavor but richly sweet. 

HINT: You take and heat some olive oil in a small sauce pan, throw in garlic, don't burn the garlic, the pepper flakes, and some red peppers you chopped fine not liquified in a blender, let them get happy for twenty minutes under low heat. The sweet pepper and the hot flakes will infuse the oil. Fine strain the mixture.  You just add a small amount of the infused oil to the sauce or "gravy" as it's known in Italian circles and you got heat a la Marinara.

Top it with two Italian Mild or Hot sausages and I'm ready to go.  In Italy this is the way pasta is served, sauce cooked with and tossed.  It stays hotter longer and the flavor is more integrated with the pasta throughout the dish.

We have been customers there for about twenty-five years and nothing has varied, lots of familiar faces, family run, clean as a whistle and it's my go-to-place when hungry for simple wholesome down to earth Italian food. The girls up front have been there for years and know you after a while when you come in.  The food comes out fresh, hot and very aromatic. 

No frills, no smoking, clean, family run though mainly a mature crowd, that means less screaming and nice conversations, and you'll need a tomorrow-lunch bag. I hate the expression doggie bag.

Their pizza is handmade, no machines, no gimmicks, real cheese, not synthetic and it tastes like pizza not cardboard. The ultimate pizza is their Supreme and it's a meal for three, or two of me. I have to be helped up after because I can't get enough. It's the best I ever had in the Tampa bay area period.

Apr 4, 2019, 12:00 PM