Today’s restaurant visit is by longtime New Jersey Monthly contributor Suzanne Zimmer Lowery. Table Hopping editor Andrea Clurfeld returns tomorrow with restaurant news.
The soft, sandy tones of Casa Bellisima’s elegantly appointed white-tablecloth dining room provide a comfortable place to land at the end of a long week. The popular Andover restaurant, filled with mahogany furnishings and muted abstract landscape paintings, has floor-to-ceiling drapes that lend a luxurious feel but do not absorb enough sound to buffer the room as it fills and the noise level rises.
On nights when the nearby Newton Theatre features a musical or a comedian of national caliber, tables can be in high demand, and diners seem revved for a night on the town. On such nights, reservations are recommended.
Soon after we sat down, hot bread was presented along with an ample portion of tomato bruschetta on delicate little squares of toast. That helped fend off hunger as we waited for cocktails to arrive from the well-stocked bar.
When Casa Bellisima is busy, service seems to slow a bit, but the staff is friendly and helpful, able to describe and recommend dishes.
The soup of the day, a seafood bisque, was creamy yet not overly rich. It was flecked with bits of seafood, but would have been more visually appealing with a simple garnish of fresh herbs. The six clams oreganata served with a lemony pink sauce were tender and delicious, but quite tiny.
Of the many classic Italian pasta, seafood, chicken and meat entrées, portion size seemed a bit inconsistent. Veal Columbo offered four wafer-thin slices of meat in a light white wine cream sauce with prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella that was just enough. By contrast, short rib pappardelle, thick ribbons of house-made pasta topped with shreds of beef in a flavorful tomato ragu, arrived in a boat-shaped bowl that could have served a small family.
All main courses include a nice-sized salad with a tangy house vinaigrette.
Casa Bellisima has been a local favorite for special occasions and everyday meals for over a decade and shows no sign of slowing down.
Casa Bellisima, 269 Newton Sparta Road, Andover, 973-579-7711, casabellisimarestaurant.com. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
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