Ok, it was the meatballs that drew me in. But it was everything else that'll keep me coming back.
This is - how shall I say? - gourmet rustic cuisine. It's an ideal place for those who like adventurous Italian food (adventurous Italian????) and those who want to re-experience great meals they've had in Italy.
The meal-starter was puntarelle "flown in from Rome" dressed with lemon, garlic, anchovy and olive oil. I think puntarelle is a kind of endive. Anyway, it was delicious.
The meal-stopper was the heralded sicillian cauliflower with pinoli and currants. It is a flat-out terrific dish.
The little meatballs, on the other hand, though a signature dish, were problematic. The problem was the ratio of interior meat to deep-fried battered crust. Because the meatballs are so little, with every bite-sized ball, you're getting too much deep-fried crunch. Not my thing, but I can see their appeal.
Grilled swordfish bathed in olive oil and lemon, though extolled by the waiter, was unspectacular. A side dish of cavolo nera - a braised kale-like dish, was very nice. Quartinos of barbera hit the spot, as did the honey gelato drizzled with more honey.
Bellavitae is reasonably priced and has a relaxed scene with a friendly waitstaff and hostess. The menu beckons those who expect and demand more from Italian cuisine than they get at the other ten million or so Italian restaurants in the city.