New downtown restaurant Bella provides a place to unwind

Downtown Maryville recently saw the opening of the new Italian-inspired restaurant Bella located on Broadway next door to the Capitol Theatre, replacing what used to be Sullivan’s. Opening a new restaurant is a daunting task, from redecorating to staffing to licensing, but after six months of hard work, Bella confirmed its opening weekend for January 28-30. 

My boyfriend and I both worked in restaurants for years and in fact met at our first job in a restaurant. Bella’s grand opening was all I needed to convince him that a date night was long overdue. I called a few days early, as is customary, and I was greeted on the phone by a cheerful voice eager to accommodate my Friday night reservation. 

Arriving just after 7:00 p.m., we were warmly welcomed and promptly shown to our table. The dining room was spacious while the seating was intimate, and the color scheme subtle yet energizing. The bar was lively and sizable without overwhelming tabletop dining. With the lighting just low enough and ideal musical acoustics, the ambiance was very alluring. Bella’s opening was clearly long-awaited, as every table was seated with excited patrons of all ages dressed in their evening best. 

Our waitress was professional and friendly, offering knowledgeable insights about the menu. The wine list boasted a substantial variety of options both by the glass and by the bottle, along with pairing suggestions. The cocktail list was considerable, if a bit pricey, and though the beer selection was limited, it was well-rounded. Uniquely, there was a “zero-proof” menu offering non-alcoholic options of popular drinks, such as an Old Fashioned. I was quite impressed by this as many people wish to enjoy an adult beverage without consuming alcohol. I thought it was an excellent addition to a drink menu. My boyfriend got a local beer, and I got a rosé, which one can only ever safely order at a high-end restaurant. 

Upon the waitress’ recommendation, we ordered the calamari as a starter. The portion size appeared at first to be too large for two people, but the breading was optimally light and the sauce flavorful. Within no time, we had finished every piece. 

While tasteful food is generally the most obvious reason to dine out, I confess that I really go to watch the service. As an experienced waitress, ensuring that a guest receives their courses in a timely manner is not as easy as one would think. It takes skill and attentiveness. Not only was my service excellent, so was the service of my neighboring tables. To my pleasure, our entrees came at that ideal moment between feeling too full and scouting trays for dishes that look somewhat like yours. 

I ordered the wild mushroom rigatoni while my boyfriend had the filet. The sauce on my pasta was not too thin, as some pasta sauces can be, and the vegetables were fresh. The filet was tender and well-seasoned with roasted fingerling potatoes and broccolini on the side. We were impressed by the quality of the dishes, as it shows Bella’s ability to do both pasta and steak well, which is not always the case in a restaurant.

After finishing our entrees, we had a second glass of wine and spent the better part of half an hour enjoying each other’s company. When you’re looking to slow down and reconnect, I am a firm believer in allowing a restaurant to create an atmosphere for you. It can be difficult to put aside distractions in today’s world, and the immersive dining experience at Bella was exactly what we needed to do so. Whatever the occasion, Bella is prepared to make it memorable. Too full to eat anymore, we ordered some Italian donuts to go and graciously said goodnight to my new favorite restaurant.

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