Restaurant Review: BellaBrava, St Pete

One of my bffs came down to visit and requested cacio e pepe for dinner. She lives in a small town outside of Buffalo, NY, so she wanted something she can’t easily get at home.

BellaBrava has cacio e pepe on the menu and it had been a while since we’d been there. On the last night of my friend’s visit, we (bff, The Husband, dad, stepmom) went for dinner.

I loved their use of Italian words on the menu. The Husband and I are moving to Italy in April for a bit and I’ve been learning Italian for the past year. It was good to know that some of my lessons were sticking with me!

We started with the meatballs and the goat cheese al forno. I don’t eat much meat, but the meatballs looked too good to pass up, and they were. The sauce was delicious and it was over a creamy polenta. The goat cheese was warm and melty and both the pomodoro and pesto sauces were amazing.

My bff, dad, and myself also started with Caesar salads. Side note: did you know the Caesar salad originated in Tijuana, Mexico, not Italy? That’s one of the many surprising facts I’ve learned getting ready for Italy.

The salad came with the option to add anchovies, which my dad and I did. I loved the salad and the anchovies, my father not so much. My bff had a creamy peppercorn dressing instead of the Caesar dressing and it was super good. I would order it that way if I went back.

The Husband ordered the spicy honey pizza special, and it was pretty good. We’ve gotten really good at making homemade dough and cooking pizzas in our pizza oven, so the bar is really high. And my visiting bff owns a pizza shop in WNY.

My dad ordered the chicken cacciatore. I didn’t try it, but I looked very tender and he said it reminded him of his mom’s cacciatore. He loved the chicken, which was served over the same polenta that came with the meatballs

My stepmom had the chicken special. I don’t remember the name but it was a chicken breast with cheese and sauce. It was so freaking good. I never order chicken as my meal but I would absolutely order that. The lighting makes that chicken look raw but I swear it was cooked perfectly, it’s just covered in cheese.

My bff and I both ordered the cacio e pepe. It was listed on the menu as cacio e pepe, then in parentheses mac and cheese. It was also only $12.99. I should have known it wouldn’t be traditional Roman cacio e pepe. And it wasn’t. It was mac and cheese with bread crumbs. It didn’t even taste like cacio e pepe. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but it wasn’t cacio e pepe. It didn’t taste like pecorino cheese or cracked pepper. It wasn’t creamy. They should honestly just call it mac and cheese.

Despite everything we ordered, we managed to find room for dessert. We ordered the tiramisu, which the waitress described as ‘American’ tiramisu, and that was a good description. It didn’t taste like true tiramisu, but it was still very good.

We also ordered a dessert that was kind of like a mousse, but had a gritty texture. I can’t remember the name, but it was fluffy and delicious.

Overall, there are so many delicious Italian restaurants that have proper cacio e pepe and better pizza that I probably wouldn’t go back for dinner. I would go back and try the brunch.

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