HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 24,1999
OUT ON THE BAYOU
Trendy ironing to perform
To approach MIA BELLA, a relatively
new "trattoria" downtown, is to have the
sensation of living in a "real" city, in which
a diverse crowd of citizens jockey for side-
vv.ilk space between various restaurants,
shops and bus stops bustling with riders.
Okay, maybe Houston has a ways to go
when it comes to having a fully-functioning life downtown, but Mia Bella is another place of quality.
smoky and rich flavor.
After our wait neared 90 minutes, and
the crowds around us at the bar kept growing, we quizzed the hostess about our
seats. "Oh," she said, and suggested we
just keep dining in our chairs at the bar.
After assuring her that we indeed planned
to dine at a table, we waited another 30
minutes to be seated.
Separate the attitude of the staff from the
quality of the food, and the meal can be
enjoyable. We tried the Pesce alia Paesano
After settling in at the bar for our hour-
long wait, we ordered two appetizers to
tide us over. The Crostini de Mozzarella
($3.95) arrived on a bed of basil and
arrugula leaves, and the milky, pillowy
mozzarella more than compensated for the
unripened tomato slices.
The Bruschetta alia Romana ($3.95) was
less impressive, if only for the extremely
salty taste of the chopped tomato mixture.
The grilled bread slices and large lakes of
ripe parmesan were nice, but didn't prevent a sodium-induced wince from my
dining partner and me.
The prices and quality of the appetizers
made us ponder making a dinner out of
such dishes as Vongole en Vino Blanco
($5.95), baby clams sauteed in white wine
and the hearty Stucchi di Angnello ($5.95),
grilled lamb kebob. The customary
Calamari alia Fritti ($4.95) was crisp, light
and meaty, and the more adventurous
Funghi e Formaggio ($4.95), wild mushroom strudel with goat cheese, packs a
820 Main St.@ Preston
Service: <g-> c;
Scene: £> £>& £>£
\~? Opt for bread, water at home
OK, if you really must
Fine for most
Worth the drive, so live a little
T T O R I A
($9.95), a brick-sized filet of baked rainbow
trout marinated in roasted cilantro jalapeno
pesto. The pesto was delicious and each
herb and flavor mingled wickedly for a
spicy coating. The pesto was more of a topping than a marinade and slid off the fish.
The rest of the meat didn't soak up the
flavor, so the fish was a bit plain, if not
respectably cooked. But the side scoop of
nutty, tender cous-cous effortlessly
absorbed the pesto and provided a delicious alternative. The steamed vegetables
were only mundane.
The Ossobucco di Capretto ($11.95), lamb
shank braised in red wine with shitake
mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and port
wine sauce, was so tender that the meat
actually fell from the bones. The sauce permeated the entire dish. Although the mushrooms provided a distinct taste, the mingling of flavors was perfect. The mashed
potatoes were too lightly seasoned and the
leeks and garlic were nearly undetectable.
In true trattoria style, Mia Bella offers a
large selection of pasta dishes, like the
exquisite Capellini di Mare ($11.95), angel
hair pasta with fresh seafood, and
Papardelle al Modo Mio, ($8.95), a dish of
sauteed artichoke hearts, mushrooms, goat
cheese and toasted pine nuts in a rich tomato basil sauce.
The uneven and inattentive service
seemed to result more from lack of efficiency and organization than anything else,
even though the place was packed. Our
service went from poor to worse after a
friend finished her soft drink, served in a
pint glass with no straw. After finishing,
she noticed a wide crack and realized the
grainy feeling she felt while chewing ice
was probably shards of glass. Management
made only excuses and no apologies, A little professionalism and basic logic would
have gone a long way.
Although the food and atmosphere of
Mia Bella may be worthy, we wondered
how well Mia Bella will fare once it's joined
by newer, trendy neighbors. Courteous and
efficient service needs to be a priority and
Mia Bella has some kinks to iron out.
r Twenty Hundred & One
ITALIAN CI R
ITALIAN (J RISTORANTE
1209 CAROLINE AT DALLAS
713.759.9323 • fax 713.759.6812
Lunch: M-F 11am - 5pm
Dinner: M-Th 5pm - 9:30pm • Fri & Sat 5pm
Delivery to all lofts & apartments in Downtown Houston
Catering available for lunch and dinner meetings,
banquet facilities, and take-out available!
Plan your Christmas party with
rAUAN (J RISTORANTE
Available for the Holidays
Chocolates by IHark
for sale by the pound
1830 W. Alabama (713)522-7662
WE WILL CLOSE AT 3:00 PM ON CHRISMAS EVE,
WE ARE CLOSED ON CHRISTMAS DAY & WILL
REOPEN AT 6:00 AM ON DECEMBER 26TH.
Zenilh Roller Rink
8075 Cook Rood
i^M I P^Q I J^Q
I Q / Q / C