Went to Bellavitae last night with 4 friends. It just opened this week, so it's not truly fair to judge them yet, but here are some notes about the place.
It's a small casual place but one that can fit a few parties of 6. Tables are close but not horribly so. There's also a bar in the back where you can sit and eat as well as drink. The lighting ranged from bright to romantic (they had some issues with it last night - another kink to work out).
The menu capitalizes on the small plate trend - everything was $6 - $18 and the portions were small/tiny - for instance 6 bite size meatballs or 3 baguette size pieces of bread with melted cheese on it or one thick baguette size piece of bread with olive oil drizzled on it (the last one being $10). (think Italian tapas - cicchetti?)
Most of the dishes were simple - just expensive ingredients with very little preparation. Some parmesan with 20 year balsamic vinegar drizzled on it, or some bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with artisanal olive oil on it, or some melted gorgonzola on bread with artisanal honey drizzled over it. There are also a few pasta dishes and a couple of simple entrees, such as wood oven roasted porchetta. But all in all, not the type of place that needs a celebrity head chef in the back every night. The olive oils and vinegar were quite good (but at that price, they should be). The meatballs were a mix of veal and beef rolled in bread crumbs and were delicious. The figs wrapped in parma were good too. The pastas needed a little tweaking and the porchetta was a little bland, so I think at this stage while they continue to tweak, it may be better to stay with the simple no real cooking dishes. Wines are all Italian and served by either the quartino (about a glass and a half) or by the bottle. Wine prices ranged from $8 - $24 for the quartino and $25 and up for the bottles. For dessert we had the hazlenut panna cotta and the panetone bread pudding. We preferred the hazlenut panna cotta to the panetone, which was less pudding and more like soaked panetone - but still somewhat tasty.
As I said it's still VERY early there - but the ingredients are good and it shows promise. Prices were higher than we would have liked for the portion size, but even that could change.
One to keep an eye on I think.