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Review by ELLIS
We saw Bella Napoli in the Edgehill Village neighborhood of Nashville when we visited Taco Mamacita a while ago. We have been looking for a good, authentic pizza place, and the neighborhood was one that piqued our interest. We decided that we would put Bella Napoli on our “to-do” list and hit it up as soon as we were able.
The night that we visited Bella Napoli was a bit chilly, uncharacteristic for that time of year. Bella Napoli has some outside dining on a patio, and on this night they had a small fire burning in a stove on the patio. It was a few minute wait to get inside, so we chose to sit outside. However, the wood-burning stove threw some ash into the air, and after a few minutes of worrying about ash potentially ending up on our pizza, we asked to be seated inside. The outdoor patio is nice, though, with lights strung around the small courtyard. They do allow smoking outside, which is off-putting to my wife, so that is a negative, but on a warm night, I would certainly be interested in al fresco dining.
Bella Napoli is crowded and busy! It is a fairly small restaurant, with the kitchen and pizza oven in front with seating and a bar with tables in the back. Especially on the weekends, Bella Napoli is hoppin’!
Our server explained to us Bella Napoli’s dedication to authenticity: The flour used to make the dough comes directly from Italy, they use fresh San Marzano tomatoes in their food, and the mozzarella di Bufala is imported from Italy, while the Fior di Latte comes from a local dairy.
The pizza oven in the front is open, and you can watch Napoli’s expert pizza chef preparing, tossing, and cooking the pies. The stove is a brick oven, and seems to be a very authentic way to prepare the food.
We started with bruschetta, a typical Italian appetizer, which is toasted bread, served with cherry tomato, olive oil, garlic, and basil. I have had this dish hundreds of times, so it it difficult to make it memorable. Bella Napoli was able to do just that. The dish was very authentic, very cold, clean, with great flavors. The tomatoes were piled tomatoes and tasted amazingly fresh. The garlic was there but not overwhelming, and the dish had tons of flavor. Overall, this is a very good bruschetta.
We then tried the Caesar salad, which contained romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese with a classic Caesar dressing. This again was a very fresh salad, and the dressing tasted homemade. We were confused at first, because the dressing tasted strongly of mustard. We first thought that another dressing may have been accidentally mixed, but I’m sure this was not the case. A true Caesar dressing has strong flavors of mustard and anchovies that are lost in bottles dressings, and the flavors in this dressing expose it to being truly homemade and very tasty.
The pizzas at Bella Napoli come with or without red tomato sauce, and the menu is divided along these lines. We decided to try a traditional red sauce pizza, and settled on the “Capriccciosa”, which had Prosciutto cotto, salami, artichokes, black olives, mushrooms, and mozzarella. Each pizza is about 10-12 inches ( 4 slices) and is enough for two folks or one hungry person.
The meats on the pizza were very, very good. I am not a huge fan of tomato sauce, but the sauce was not like sauces used by “American” pizza chefs. It tasted more like crushed tomatoes with herbs, and was very light, very fresh and flavorful. The dough was cooked perfectly, charred in the right places from the high heat of the brick oven. My wife requested ranch on side (her Texas roots exposed), but ended up not wanting to take away from the flavor of the pizza with condiments; truly, this is one of the highest compliments a pizza can receive.
Americans are used to pizzas heaped with cheese, but the pizza at Bella Napoli was much more about all of the toppings working together, and cheese is only one part of the whole experience. Each bite was some salty meat, cheese, sweet tomato, artichoke, fresh olives, all working together very nicely.
Aside from the fact that they did not serve sweet tea (perhaps an homage to European heritage?), Bella Napoli was a very good pizza experience. We did not try any pastas, but can attest to the fresh and authentic nature of the salads and pizza. We had a bit of an issue when we were leaving when our waiter briefly misplaced my credit card, but he was a polite and attentive server to that point, so I won’t hold it against him too much. If you’re looking for a very good pizza in Nashville, look no further than Edgehill Village and Bella Napoli.