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St. Pete Eats: Bella Brava

After an intense morning learning about Salvadore Dali, Landon and I headed a few blocks away from the museum into the heart of downtown St. Petersburg for lunch.

I'd read a lot of great things about Bella Brava, an Italian restaurant about halfway between the Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection (our next stop). As it takes little to no coaxing to get me into an Italian restaurant, I was all over Bella Brava like white on rice.

St. Petersburg, Florida

The restaurant's aesthetics were clean and modern with lots of neutrals. One of my favorite elements was the chalkboard wall where the servers' names and the daily specials were listed.

St. Petersburg, Florida

We were seated immediately when we walked up to the hostess' stand. Landon and I were both starving at this point, so we would have eaten in the kitchen if that had been the only place available--but luckily, we were seated at in a nice booth instead.

Our waitress wasn't super peppy, but I tried not to hold that against her. I know that everyone can't be crazy like I am all the time! She was very pleasant, though, and didn't say anything crazy like our waitress from Toucan's. She took our orders without much chatting, but she did keep checking in on us.

The food came out super fast! Seriously, I've had food at fast food restaurants take longer than it did at Bella Brava. The restaurant was far from empty, so I guess they have an excellent kitchen staff.

Landon ordered the Trattoria Chicken Parmesan ($9.99). The Bella Brava version included a piece of prosciutto and fontina baked onto the top, which completely boosted the overall flavor. The spaghetti and tomato-based sauce were a great complement to the heavier fried chicken.

St. Petersburg, Florida

I got the Ti Piace Pasta, which was a build-your-own pasta. I chose the penne pasta, creamy basil pesto, and wood-grilled chicken ($11.99). The cream sauce was insanely delicious. I could have licked my bowl at the end! I love pesto, but this version was unlike any I'd ever had before.  The wood-grilled chicken was a bit too smoky for my taste on its own, but when I cut it up and ate it in the same bite as the pasta, the flavors melded much better.

St. Petersburg, Florida

We splurged and got mojitos because we were on vacation. I thought they were very refreshing. The mint had been freshly muddled--no fake mint flavor here. I've noticed that a lot of people mixing mojitos tend to oversweeten the drinks, but whoever was running the show at Bella Brava showed some necessary restraint. The drink was the perfect combo of tart and sweet.

After we'd finished eating, our waitress got a little chattier. Perhaps she was, as my mother-in-law says, slow to warm? By the time we were ready to leave, the waitress was calling us "adorable" (thank you, vacation hats) and wishing us a happy reunion with our daughter.

Though the personnel was a little uneven, the service was prompt and the food was delicious. I can easily see why this restaurant was awarded best Italian restaurant in the Bay area.

Bella Brava is located at 204 Beach Drive NE in downtown St. Petersburg.