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Casa Bella: Whitestone’s Casa Bella sure to be a success

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CASA BELLA

12-53 150th St.

Whitestone

767-4699

Casa Bella, the new Italian restaurant on 150th Street in Whitestone, seems well-qualified for success. In the 21st century when restaurants have become the place for socializing, a survey of restaurant-goers by Yankelovitch reveals: 43 percent use them for celebrations, 37 percent to gather family and friends and 32 percent as a favorite leisure time activity.

Casa Bella is a lovely place to celebrate. It's all copper-hued and shimmery. The walls of its two dining rooms are masked dramatically with a metallic-like covering that matches the copper espresso machine on the bar. The cloths and carpeting are of deep green. Each table has a bouffant bouquet - not merely a carnation or two.

There's a charming fountain and a wall of mirrored rectangles. On the way in you pass a small organ with music played from 5 to 11 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. It's definitely a place to celebrate with food and service to match.

Yet, the staff is so welcoming that it lends itself nicely to lunch or dinner with family and friends. A lunch there (the dinner menu is served) is ultra-festive.

The "art of fine Italian cuisine" they boast. And Casa Bella owner Giovanni and partner Umberto from Naples, the chef, make good on the promise. The hot antipasto is Italian Heaven: two good-sized shrimp, two large stuffed mussels, two tiny mussels. and the most divine ricotta stuffed eggplant slice oozing with ricotta.

The cold appetizer of mozzarella, prosciutto and tomatoes sounds like "the usual." But at Casa Bella, the beautiful home, it is deluxe. The ovaline mozzarella is an oval slice rolled with thinly sliced mozzarella and the tomatoes are prosciutto - special indeed. The portion size is "jumbo."

The list of pastas is lengthy and includes pasta Casa Bella with chicken, sun dried tomatoes and arugula. One seemed the way to go - ravioli langusta, fresh homemade ravioli with lobster in a butter sage sauce. The sauce was unctuous.

Three men (this was luncheon) at the next table had ordered pasta. A 4-inch deep bowl (impressive) was presented to each. I must add that I witnessed the most beautiful twirling job with fork and spoon that I have ever seen. I was fascinated and envious. So neat!

Many veal selections are on the menu, including the veal chop casupaguioin with sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms. And there are chicken dishes - baby chick, partially de-boned and simmered with rosemary and natural juices, and steak, a sirloin or skirt steak with beer-battered fries. I was intrigued by the beer-battered options but skirt steak was not available that day.

Shrimp (lots of it), calamari, salmon, swordfish, and filet of sole in a simple lemon butter sauce are scrumptious offerings..

As for dessert, by all means try cannoli, the Casa Bella way. Instead of one large one there are three petites attractively arranged and presented. The size is perfect and the pastry and ricotta filling more so. It is a creamy delight, flavored with orange water. I nominate it for my favorite - even after a week-plus food tour of Sicily. The tirimisu however, is not distinctive and I would prefer it a bit moister.

Espresso made from Italian coffee, ground in the glass grinder beside it, is excellent. The tri-layered cappuccino equally so.

The sleepy little town of Whitestone has not always been known for upper-crust dining, but if you invite me to Casa Bella for a family celebration, a gathering with family and friends, or a leisure time activity, I'll say "si" very quickly!

THE BOTTOM LINE

Shimmery copper walls. Fresh bouffant bouquets. Organ music Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Excellent Italian cuisine and service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Hot Antipasti...$9.95

Pagilia & Fieno $11.95

Penne Casa Bella...$12.95

Veal Cordon Bleu...$15.95

Veal Chop Valdostana...$24.95

Baby Lamb Chops in a Rosemary

Sauce...$19.95

Fielto di Salmone Almondine...$10.95

Tiramisu....$4.95

Italian Cheesecake...$4

Food: Italian cuisine

Setting: Shimmery copper;

bouffant bouquets, organ music

Service: Excellent

Hours: Open 7 days. L&D

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Location: 150th Street & 14th

Avenue

Dress: Neat casual & business

Credit cards: All major

Music: Organ Fri., Sat., Sun. 5 p.m.

to closing

Private room: To 25

Take out: Yes

Smoking: None

Noise level: Quiet

Handicapped access: Yes

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