Bellini’s offers tasty Italian fare in a unique setting

Caryn Kindkeppel, Staff Writer

Soaring ceilings, richly appointed decorations and the air of a different century are the unique accompaniments to the Italian cuisine at Bellini Italian Restaurant. The restaurant resides in a former church that was built in 1897 and is located on East Washington Avenue, just three blocks from Madison’s Capitol.

The restaurant boasts a far more stately and formal ambiance than many of the Italian restaurants in Madison. The stained glass, carved chairs and rich wall hangings give a regal impression. The white linens and cloth napkins set the mood for fine dining, and the menu reinforces this feeling. While the fans in the lofty ceiling provide circulation, they are a bit breezy and may leave the diner feeling chilly.

The drink menu looks impressive, with many wines, mixed drinks and even Italian beers to choose from. The dinner menu offers various appetizers, pizzas, salads, pastas and entrées that sound inviting. The pasta and entrée meals follow fluffy, warm fresh-baked bread served with oregano-topped olive oil for dipping.  They also include a side salad with choice of dressing, of which the creamy garlic is a tasty choice.

One of the pasta selections is Fettuccine alla Giovanni ($19), which is an Alfredo sauce served over the pasta and topped with prosciutto and Italian sausage.  The sauce is tasty, creamy and of ample quantity. Ironically, the noodles are come in much smaller portions than are typical of Italian restaurants. The meats add greatly to the meal, since they are a generously portioned and very flavorful. However, the dish is excessively salted, leaving the diner thirsty.

Another pasta choice is Ravioli con Spinachi ($21), which consists of ravioli rounds stuffed with four cheeses, from RP’s Pasta Company of Madison, and topped with a creamy tomato sauce and spinach, with a hefty splash of cooking alcohol. The cook is generous with sauce and ravioli. While the flavors were very tasty, the overall dish had a raw alcohol flavor that left it tasting a bit harsh. The dish could be improved by cooking off that extra alcohol.

For dessert, one can choose the house-made Tiramisu ($8), a decadent concoction of creamy mascarpone, ladyfinger cookies drenched in espresso, whipped cream and cocoa powder dusted on top. This dessert is best shared with a dining companion and is worth every dollar and calorie.

The menu prices are a bit high and the subtleties of the flavors of the pasta dishes could use a little tweaking. The service is friendly, but the time to get meals may be longer than one would expect. Overall, Bellini’s offers a good-tasting Italian meal and a pleasant ambiance for a special night out.

Price Range for Entrees: $11-24

Restaurant Hours: Open seven days a week serving dinner at 4:00 p.m., call ahead on weekends as weddings are sometimes hosted.