By Angela Blue
Writers are often inspired by their surroundings, gaining influence from the places and people around them. So, when meeting a freelance writer for lunch last month, we searched for a place that was both enlivening and charming, contemporary but with character—a place to really get the ideas flowing. What we found was Bella Monte.
Located on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach, Bella Monte isn’t technically new, but it’s not old either. It was owned by Robin Tuite for 30 years before she retired in 2015. New owners Tony Walker and Chris Martini took over the restaurant, transforming it to the new Bella Monte, a modern yet rustic restaurant and enoteca (a wine repository). Half restaurant and half wine lounge and market, Bella Monte is the whole package for feeling whisked away to Italy during an hour-long lunch break.
Seated at a table in the open and airy dining room, I carefully skimmed the menu, becoming immediately intrigued by an appetizer: fried castelvetrano olives served with tomato gorgonzola dipping sauce. Having never experienced fried olives, I didn’t want to let this opportunity slip by.
The briny orbs came lightly breaded, with just a thin, crispy layer encasing the outside of the green olives. Dipped in the tomato gorgonzola sauce, it’s an irresistible match. In The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Amanda Hesser writes, “If you’ve never had a fried olive do not let another day pass without tasting one.” I absolutely get it now and would recommend Bella Monte as the place to experiment with the fried olive phenomenon.
For an entrée, I landed on the caper Dijon glazed salmon topped with sautéed spinach perched on a heap of cannellini beans. The salmon was delicately charred, the spinach wilted to a lovely, bright green, and the cannellini beans providing extra flavor and fullness to the entrée.
After lunch, we perused the other side of Bella Monte—the enoteca. Their wine selection is overwhelmingly impressive, with more than 300 options from Europe, California and Virginia. But what separates them from other wine shops is their wine-dispensing stations where up to 16 open wine bottles can be stored at a time, and wine temperatures are constantly regulated. Guests can enjoy pour sizes of 1, 4 or 6 ounces, allowing them to sample many different varieties.
Bella Monte’s wine lounge is quiet, with a blend of rustic interior (reclaimed wood walls from a Back Bay farm) and stately décor. Their wine tasting table and smaller arrangements of seating options seem ideal for a casual business meeting (perhaps with wine tasting).
The restaurant also features the Pantry, where patrons can take a number of items to go, including cheese spreads and sauces, deli salads, quiches by the slice, meats and lasagnas, soups and desserts, as well as family-style salads, entrees and sides.
Finally, here’s something to keep in mind for after work hours. On Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:30–9:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 7–10 p.m., Bella Monte hosts Charlie Wiseman, one of the finest cabaret artists in the country, who fills the restaurant’s atmosphere with a captivating variety of theater, music and comedy. Pair that with some fried castelvetrano olives and a glass of wine, and you’ve got an evening that will surely inspire.
Bella Monte is located at 1201 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach. Call 757-425-6290, or visit their website for more information.