Kicking off summer dining at Mia Bella

Yes! Patio season! It’s here!

We had made reservations at Mia Bella in Little Italy, before the weather had improved. But when we got there it was gorgeous out.

Fortunately, our luck continued as one of its few tables set up on the sidewalks was open so we got to bask in actual sunlight and with cocktails in some of the largest glasses in Northeast Ohio.

My goblet was filled with a Mia Bella Martini ($9), an appropriate summery concoction of vodka, lemon juice and blueberries while Jeannene had an equally seasonal San Fran Sangria ($11). Both were well-blended and balanced.

None of the appetizers grabbed us so we each ordered a cup of soup. I went with the zuppa di pesce ($7.99), a tomato-based spicy broth with seafood and large chunks of vegetables piled high. It wasn’t too spicy, just a slow burn, and the mussels and shrimp were correctly cooked. Jeannene’s Zuppa di Casa ($6.49) has a similar looking broth but did not have any zing to it (which she appreciated) and instead had chicken and rice plus a few veggies. We were about halfway done when I realized we were eating out of decent-sized bowls, not cups. But when we got our bill it confirmed that we were just given the “cup sized” order. Impressive.

Chicken and risotto in the foreground and pasta Bolognese while meatballs and cocktails in giant glasses are in between at Mia Bella in Cleveland’s Little Italy. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)

For the main course, I went with the pasta Bolognese ($15.49) — veal and beef crumbled and mixed in a tomato sauce and all of that mixed with a football-sized mound of fettucini (or was it linguine?). Nothing ground-breaking here, just traditional Italian fare cooked to perfection. Now, I knew there is always enough meat in a Bolognese sauce but when the server asked if I wanted to add two meatballs ($3.95) to it, I just naturally said “yes.” And while they weren’t needed, they were definitely enjoyable – soaked with the red sauce they were cooked in and practically falling apart when cut through with a fork.

Jeannene went with the chicken risotto ($21.95). When it arrived I was reminded that traditional rustic Italian risottos have a lot of vegetables in them instead of the rice being the dominate feature. But Jeannene ate it up as fast as I handled my dish.

As for dessert, we followed our tried-and-true Little Italy strategy – Finish dinner early enough to hit Corbo’s Bakery or Presti’s Bakery before they close and come away with multiple items for later in the evening. Chocolate-coated cannolis and mini cheesecakes it is.

John Bertosa is likely out and about sampling the Northeast Ohio dining scene.

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