Bellini's Italian Restaurant
115 West Main Street
Lexington, Ky 40509
(Today I'm bringing you a guest post, written by my dear friend and fellow foodie, Amy Stone. Bellini's Italian Restaurant is located in downtown Lexington in a historic building dating back to 1869. The building housing Bellini's is truly one of a kind, the only Italianette style architecture in the area. Bellini's celebrates local and and seasonal offerings and is committed to supporting the region's farmers and farms.)
It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten a meal in Lexington that actually surprised me, but my belated Valentine meal at Bellini’s Saturday night did just that.
This was far from our first trip to Bellini’s - my husband has been enjoying their fine bolognaise sauce for many years. The truth is, Bellini’s is the only restaurant in Lexington where I will willingly pay for Italian food. Having grown up in northeastern Ohio, as a child I was taught to make meatballs and red sauce from my neighbor and her mother in law. I confess since then I’ve found precious little to tempt me outside of what I was taught to make in that cramped little kitchen with Grandma Lavorini. I can still see her in her black shift making bread and showing me how to shape the rolls with gestures and head nods. (She never learned to speak English and in all the years I knew her I never heard her utter a single word.)
When we were seated in the Bellini’s dining room Saturday night our excellent server Quinn informed us that the appetizer special that evening was a Gnocchi Caprese. A well made gnocchi is a gift from the gods and the truth is, I’ve had precious few truly great ones. Good gnocchi should be light fluffy pillows of goodness, but if handled poorly, can end up as sticky wet globs of starch which quite simply, make me sad. Quinn was quick to recommend the gnocchi and I am so glad that we trusted him. What we were served was something I have never encountered in my life – a stuffed gnocchi! I know, I know - I’d never heard of stuffing gnocchi either. Turns out it can be done and the Lexington Pasta Company has one of only three machines in the entire United States that can stuff gnocchi. Our little town is thus blessed and I had no idea!
Chef Craig Devillers flavors the potatoes with tomato which gives the gnocchi a lovely orange color and light tomato flavor. Lexington Pasta Company then forms the gnocchi and stuffs them with a mozzarella filling. The gnocchi are then lightly fried. Yes you read that right - surprise number two, fried gnocchi! Sounds like blasphemy I realize, but they were not the least bit greasy and the light crunch of the crust was in perfect contrast to the soft dumpling center. They were then served with a richly flavorful tomato confit, fresh basil and an onion balsamic reduction that was, quite frankly, ridiculously good. If they ever bottle it I will be the first one in line to buy it!
The rest of our meal was equally outstanding. Mr. Stone once again enjoyed the delicious Penne Bolognaise. I was treated to a succulent Lobster Ravioli in a red pepper cream sauce. What made these ravioli so outstanding was not just the quality of the pasta – thank you again Lexington Pasta Company – but the fact that there was a crazy amount of lobster in the filling. This wasn’t just a few flakes and some ricotta my friends, there were full on chunks of lobster in that ravioli and the flavor was delicate and light for what was in fact, a very rich dish.
Here’s the thing about good Italian food, it’s not ‘chef-y’. Its’ beauty lies in the simplicity of good quality ingredients, skillfully combined to produce richly layered flavors. That was what struck me so much about the Gnocchi Caprese, it was innovative but not overdone and was truly a pleasure. So much so that it has instigated the writing of this, my very first dining review. Bellini’s is a local Lexington treasure. We had outstanding service (thank you young Quinn!) and Chef Craig took the time to come out personally to talk with us and discuss his amazing food. If you haven’t been to Bellini’s recently it’s time for a trip back in to sample the amazing quality of the dishes coming out of their kitchen. Chef Craig – Bravo Sir! Thanks for a surprising and delicious meal. And a big thank you to Kim Tracy who has allowed me to hijack her blog for this review. I appreciate your indulgence my friend!
A big thanks to my friend Amy for writing this review. I know my readers will enjoy learning about the innovative stuffed gnocchi, the delicious food, and what sounds to be a wonderful restaurant with exemplary customer service. I hope to dine there as soon as possible!