LA VITA E BELLA

2411 Second Ave., BELLTOWN 206-441-5322 breakfast 7-11 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 9-11 a.m. Sat.; lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner 5-11 p.m. Mon.-Sun.

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Pizza Is Beautiful!

An honest-to-god Italian pizzeria grows in Belltown.

LA VITA E BELLA

2411 Second Ave., BELLTOWN 206-441-5322 breakfast 7-11 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 9-11 a.m. Sat.; lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner 5-11 p.m. Mon.-Sun. In Tuscany, a crazy German B&B owner darkly warned my wife and me, "Ach! Don't go to Florence! It's full of OGLY, STYOOPID people!" But for us, life was beautiful in Florence—nobody was smarter about food, and the best was the cheapest: pasta and pizze. Now that we've lost our shirt on the market, we only go as far as Belltown to revisit Italian cuisine, at La Vita e Bella, so named because the restaurateur's Florentine cousin went to film school with Roberto Benigni. La Vita e Bella's cafe, adorned with photos of R.B. and other Italian greats, dollops up fresh pasta daily, with expert timing you can detect al dente. Next door at the pizzeria, the decor is a bit more formal (by Italian standards), with arty old photos of pre-Rick Steves Amalfi and a horse-drawn cart loaded with a thousand-plus big-bottomed wine bottles. I dig the cool little blue lights over the bar. Our waiter, advising us on the antipasti, claimed owners Giuseppe Forte and Corino Bonjrada and his mom, chef Enza Bonjrada, are proudest of the polipo con patate (octopus with kalamata olives and potatoes)—so fresh! Alas, he was fresh out of it. So we settled for the calamari ($9.95, a buck cheaper), with happy results: The noble squid had good taste, structural integrity, Bonjrada-made pesto, and no damn fried breading. The prosciutto with parmigiano ($11.95) were, respectively and properly, thin and dense. The spinach in the Piedmonte salad ($7.95) was so fresh it practically hopped out of one's mouth and pinched one's cheek, and the olive oil, which they make themselves, was just fine, though I don't know that it quite deserves the big fuss they make over it. (They hope you'll buy a bottle to take home). The presentation was eye-delighting: If we'd lost our crockery as well as our shirt on the market, we'd have been tempted to take home the lovely blue-topped salad plate. And le pizze! We chose two of the 20 options (which come unsliced, of course): Gorgonzola, with just enough crunchy walnuts and black pepper ($10.95), and Siciliana, an artful blend of not too much tuna, onions, olives, and capers ($12.95). Both boasted a flavorful thin crust you can fold over without snapping it and tomato sauce so succulent I want to leave this sentence unfinished and go gobble some more. When I do, maybe I'll notice somebody at the next table who desperately needs a haircut and a Valium: Giuseppe claims Benigni made a solemn promise to come eat at La Vita e Bella one day soon. tappelo@seattleweekly.com

 
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