Bella Luna Ristorante Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos Islands Reviewed May / June 2012
The Bella Luna Family – Staff Photo by Steve Passmore www.ProvoPictures.com
Each and every time I turn to the Bella Luna Ristorante pages of the Where When How Dining Guide; an irrepressible smile comes to my lips; taking great pleasure and delight in this photographer’s ability to truly capture the genuine warmth, welcoming hospitality and true ambiance of this Fine Dining Italian Ristorante. This is the quintessential ‘picture’ of what Bella Luna is, and has been for over 17 years. In fact, all that’s missing is the caption, “Famiglia Bella Luna”. Not only does it make me want to dine there... it makes me want to pour myself a big glass of red wine and sit down with Chef/Owner Cosimo Tripodi and the entire crew and join in the toast!
Bella Luna Antipasto Platter for Two
Bella Luna is a constantly evolving work–of–art where every aspect of Cosimo’s ristorante reflects him and his many and diverse artistic talents. He’s full of life and passionate – talking as excitedly about wood and tiles as he does about food and wine! “I’m always on the go; I’m always doing new things” he confesses. And with Bella Luna continually evolving, Cosimo admits, “I feel like I’m always opening a new place! I am fortunate to have a property I can play with”. He goes on to explain, “I did my own mise–en–place, but not just about cooking... about here.” He expresses that it makes him feel good to introduce something to his diners that they haven’t experienced before.
Bella Luna is a hive of activity, making fresh pasta and breads daily. “I’m everywhere; not just in the kitchen”, Cosimo admits. Fiercely proud of his kitchen ‘trio’, Cosimo unreservedly boasted of their talents and over two decades of experience in Italian food.
Lobster Ravioli at Bella Luna on Grace Bay
Our evening began with cocktails at the bar; the sounds of Andrea Bocelli quite appropriately filling the air; and I couldn’t help but say, “I can just picture Chef Cosimo downstairs in the kitchen singing along”. To which my favourite dining companion laughed and said, “That is Cosimo singing!” Dine al fresco on the terrace, amidst greenery, soft lighting and a trickling fountain; indoors where unique and beautiful frescoed walls and ceilings conjure up romantic memories of Italy; or in the newly completed Tree Top dining room.
Compliments of the Chef, a to–die–for Focaccia bread to which Cosimo adds a ‘secret’ condiment is served with an all–natural, made–fresh–daily tomato dipping sauce. The exhilarating fragrance of garlic begins to waft through the air as the bread enters the dining room... delightfully warm and deliciously crunchy this tasty indulgence always ignites unrelenting kudos, with accolades even being heard from diners at neighboring tables.
Cosimos Family Recipe for Lasagna Tipica
New for this season, Cosimo has introduced a traditional Antipasto Platter for two bearing imported Italian delicacies. What he calls, “A great way to start your meal”; and what I would call, “The real deal!” From his birthplace Calabria in Southern Italy, enjoy marinated artichokes, delicate sun–dried tomatoes, marvelous Sicilian olives and Finocchiona – an aromatic and flavourful Tuscan salami. And from Parma, Italy, a fabulously pungent 20–month aged Parmesan and tender, flavourful Fagioli Spagna beans. And if you’re in the mood for something simply amazing, ask Cosimo if he has any Bresaola; a classic Italian charcuterie he will slice up on what he teasingly calls his ‘Lamborghini’.
Bella Luna’s menu offers fine dining pleasures from antipasti to insalata; from pasta to pesce; from vitello to pollo; manzo to risotti and sweet endings with dolci. Bella Luna also features a ‘Fixed Price Menu’ of 3 courses at a very appealing price; and ‘Featuring Today’, a wide–ranging selection of specials together with wine recommendations.
Bella Lunas Seafood Risotto
My husband’s Zuppa del Giorno was a rich, hearty and delicious Fish Soup finished with just a touch of cream. Another evening special, Shrimp and Cannellini Bean Salad sparked an instantaneous “love the beans” to “nice, large chunks of shrimp”. Snails in garlic butter and white wine are a perennial favourite of one member of our epicurean entourage; where occasional and sporadic one word compliments like “excellent” and “lovely” were all I could muster from her between each luscious bite. I opted for the Conch Frittelle; three grilled conch patties that were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside; served with a “WOW!” jerk mayonnaise sauce that everyone agreed would harmonize with just about anything!
On the tail end of lobster season, we decided to take advantage of the Lobster Ravioli special. House–made, hand–rolled ravioli were stuffed with delicate minced lobster and a very palatable spice blend. My fellow diner was completely smitten with this dish... incessantly and zealously raving on and on about the Maria Rosa sauce; an extraordinary tomato cream sauce made with incredibly sweet imported Italian tomatoes and finished with fresh basil at the end... not before, the Chef cautions, as it would dissipate. And the good news is... there is no need to despair ––– when lobster is off season, as Cosimo will continue to make this same fabulous ravioli dish with shrimp! My husband was determined to experience Cosimo’s family recipe of Lasagna Tipica tonight; too slow on the draw on past dining experiences when the menu items were being divvied up! He was quick on the draw this evening to call it but suddenly went into slow–motion mode as he relished and took great pleasure in each and every meaty, cheesy bite... claiming this was “the cheesiest I have ever had” while his fellow diner, nodded in concurrence, with a whole–hearted, “I can agree with that!” Each evening boasts a Risotto del Giorno and tonight’s Shrimp and Artichoke Risotto was perfectly prepared; still firm to the bite and drenched in a velvety, rich sauce. Every forkful yielded big chunks of shrimp and lots of them; while the one and only flavour of artichokes rounded out this wonderful dish. To my right, an expressive, “That looks divine; and it tastes that way too” was reserved for the Vitello Boscaiola; Veal Scaloppini with wild mushrooms and Marsala; a magnificent marriage of fresh mushrooms and herbs.
Bella Luna Ristorante at the Glass House in Grace Bay (pick up)
A 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva Marchese Antinori drew approving reviews from around the table; matching well with our appetiser dishes and in particular, the tomato–based dishes. Then, the heavy artillery came out... a 2005 Marques de Caceres Rioja Riserva that literally just about knocked us off our seats! “It’s a BIG wine!” was followed by, “Yes, that is a BIG red!” unanimously embraced as a new frontrunner on our list, and at a very palatable price!
Dolci... the word instantly evokes a craving for sweet endings. Fondente al Cioccolato had my name on it; a hot chocolate truffle with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So incredibly satiated from my earlier courses I desperately made a valiant effort to finish; but conceded to offer the last vestiges to my husband; who so gallantly finished it for me. Affogato al Caffe is my favourite dining companions’ favourite dolci – vanilla ice cream, espresso coffee and your choice of liqueur. Her choice was Bailey’s; and she quietly enjoyed what she repeatedly deems to be a light and lovely dessert libation. Dolce di Formaggio, a mascarpone and double cream cheese cake garnered a “That’s the biggest piece of cheesecake I’ve ever seen”; fabulously moist, tremendously rich and smothered with luscious cherries; and finally, Torre di Cioccolato; a dense and deliciously decadent chocolate sponge cake with walnuts and chocolate ice cream.
My head was reeling after my session with Cosimo... with plans underway for his new private dining room, The Venus Room; and his Italian Garden Pizzeria, I suggested that with all of his ambitious and ongoing projects he should clone himself... he heartily laughed and said, “It would be very dangerous!” “I’m a dreamer” he quips. “If you’re passionate; you have to be passionate about everything.”
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