Bellini Pasta Pasta

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Italian food! I haven't had much Italian food while here. I didn't realize how much Italian food is a staple of American cuisine until I was away that year in England and Italian restaurants were not only rare, but expensive. I've had Italian food maybe 4 or 5 times while here, and I have to say that they get it more "right" than they get Mexican food or many American foods. I suppose going from noodle to pasta isn't that big of a leap.

The name Bellini Pasta Pasta makes me want to crack up, because it's so sing-song and childlike. It's a chain restaurant here in Taiwan, one that my aunt has recommended to me several times, but I'd just never gone.

They have both traditional Italian pastas and their own spins, like Japanese-style flavors (like the one my friend ordered, with fried chicken and shiitake mushrooms and some sort of scallion). The dishes here are relatively expensive, though not by American standards ... the pasta entrees range from about $13 to about $15.50, but come in "family-sized" portions -- certainly enough for two people. Thin-crust (brick oven style) pizzas big enough for one to two people range from $7.50 to about $12.50. Oddly enough, the seafood pastas and pizzas cost less than some of the sausage or prosciutto-based ones, perhaps because those ingredients are imported.

It took a while for us to decide on our entrees, and in the meantime, we ordered some lemonade. I think the lemonade was making its seasonal debut, because there was a buy-one-get-one-free deal going on. Little did we know that it would be blue ... with free refills. Not as sweet as the lemonade in the U.S., but extremely refreshing.

I wasn't very hungry, so I went with a margherita pizza ($7.50) and my friend chose the spaghetti with crispy fried chicken and mushrooms, cooked in chicken stock ($15.50). I'd been tempted by the spaghetti  with smoked salmon and mushrooms in cream sauce ($14.67), but I knew there would be no way I'd finish it.

While waiting for our entrees (which took a really long time, by the way), the unavoidable scent of pesto, garlic and shrimp came drifting our way from the table and immediately, I regretted having ordered pizza.

My pizza was good -- better than most pizza I've had here -- but still not excellent. It lacked something ... maybe some of the typical seasonings used in pizza back home, but it definitely wasn't salty enough. It cooled off pretty quickly, which made it pretty unsatisfying, and I didn't finish it.

My friend's pasta (spaghetti, sadly, is really the only "noodle" they serve. They also have risotto and lasagne on the menu) was surprisingly tasty, despite not being Italian in the least. It was really lightly dressed, but heavy on mushroom and garlic flavor.

Bellini Pasta Pasta (heehee) has other strange marginally pizza-related items, such as a pizza base dressed in mascarpone cheese, whipped cream and espresso. And a banana, cranberry, blended cheese and vanilla ice cream pizza. Shudder.

I'd like to go back again on a seriously empty stomach and give the spaghetti with shrimp and mushroom in pesto sauce ($15.33) a shot. I just wish they could throw some linguine or penne into the mix!

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