I've been patronizing Bella Napoli since the mid 1970's. Back in those days, there were only about 4 Italian restaurants in El Paso, and Bella Napoli was the nearest to my home. I have enjoyed dining there with friends and family because of the good food, good service and lovely atomosphere. The decor is a bit dated, after all the restaurant has been operating in its current location for over 60 years. It's always been clean and with rare exception the servers have been friendly, attentive and well-trained. The food has changed a bit over the years but it's remained good and yes, prices have gone up but so has everything else. There is a piano player on weekend nights and we've caught opera practice there on a rare Sunday evening.
I always order a small dinner salad with bleu cheese dressing. They make the dressing in house and I think it's quite wonderful. On one occassion the dressing tasted a bit off and I told the waiter. He talked to the owner who went back into the kitchen and made a new batch of dressing on the spot. I normally order the spaghetti with meat sauce. It's a large portion and I normally end up taking half home for later. Other family favorites are the Chicken Jerusalem and the Baked Rigitoni. They do, at least upon occassion serve a Rigitoni with Jalapenos and it's usually very hot. They serve most traditional Italian dishes. If I could change anything about the menu, it would be the bread they serve. It's not terrible, but it's not good either. The small rolls are sometimes hard, sometimes soft and generally without a lot of flavor. I can't say if this cuisine lives up to high end Italian restaurants in New York or other large cities, but for the desert southwest it's pretty darn good. I can say that when I compare it to chains like Olive Garden, Bella Napoli is the clear winner in my book.
I really like Bella Napoli and usually take out of town guests to the restaurant after they've sampled some locally owned Mexican food places (after all, this IS El Paso). It's a great place to relax, it's quiet enough most nights to have leisurely conversations and the waiters are attentive enough to handle even large groups. I don't usually drink wine, but they seem to have a good wine list available. The prices seem reasonable to me and when we order pasta we end up spending about $10-$12 per person for dinner. The chicken dishes are more expensive, but according to my sister, who always orders the Chicken Jerusalem, it's well worth the price.
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