Bella Italia West

A decades-old Westside favorite

The venison tenderloin with porcini mushroom sauce at Bella Italia West came sliced to reveal a ruby-red rare interior. Tender and lean, the protein was savory and slightly tart from the red wine reduction.

| photography by Alex Lepe | With iconic red, green and white-striped awnings, Bella Italia West’s exterior shouts “typical pasta joint” to unassuming diners expecting the quintessential Italian fare most are used to in these parts. And while traditional dishes are on the menu, it’s the remarkable variety of wild game meats and owner Carlo Croci’s simplicity in presenting them that really shine.

But before visiting, call for reservations and prepare to dress appropriately. The decades-old restaurant is one of few left in town that requires proper attire (meaning nothing overly casual) and has been known to strictly enforce the rule.

The atmosphere is Elks lodge meets country club. Think dimly lit dining areas, dark carpet, hand-painted wall murals and mounted game heads. The restaurant, which moved from its original location in south Fort Worth to its current Camp Bowie spot in 1988, is old school. Tables are set with red tablecloths, white overlays, water goblets and a single carnation stem, a combination that contributes to the ambiance. Regulars – and there are many – aren’t concerned that Bella hasn’t attempted to modify its successful recipe for success. Many Westside neighborhood residents belly up to the quaint bar while others have their favorite tables. All have preferred waiters, many who’ve built loyal clientele after years of offering prime customer service.

At dinner garlicky tomato bruschetta presented atop crisp crostinis serve as an amuse-bouche upon seating. No-frills garlic bread – butter painted across a crusty baguette half – follows. Diners can examine Bella Italia’s lengthy wine list to find an impressive selection of Piedmont barolo and barbaresco wines as well as brunellos and super Tuscans, which hail from Croci’s native home. Appetizers include snail-stuffed mushrooms, venison pate and funghi paesano ($6), which offered four plump, onion and garlic stuffed cremini mushrooms soaked in oil and a white wine broth.

While the less adventurous may be tempted to stick with Bella’s pasta classics, like the baked lasagna ($20) that rests in an oval-shaped ramekin of cheesy goodness, the game menu is well worth perusal. Selections run the wildlife gamut from Texas antelope and ostrich to caribou and elk.

The venison tenderloin with porcini mushroom sauce ($36) came sliced to reveal a ruby-red rare interior. Tender and lean, the protein was savory and slightly tart from the red wine reduction. Accompanied by a small cake of broccoli soufflé, made with cauliflower and cream, scalloped potatoes and yellow cherry tomato halves, the uncomplicated ensemble was refreshingly straightforward and representative of Tuscany’s uncomplicated, rustic cuisine.

A final course of tiramisu ($12) was a little too sweet for our taste. Doused in chocolate sauce, the dessert was less ladyfingers and heavier on the coffee-flavored cream. A coffee pairing might have weakened the sugar rush that followed.

During warmer months, Bella’s patio, flanked by Croci’s vegetable and herb garden, is known to draw crowds, especially when he fires up the outdoor grill for his buffalo tenderloin. Make reservations and dress accordingly.

Location: 5139 Camp Bowie Blvd.
For Info Call: 817.738.1700
Price Range: $$-$$$
Hours: Mon.- Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., closed Sunday
What We Like:The wild game menu is well worth the trip.
What We Don’t: The tiramisu was not the best we've had in town.
Our Recommendation: Visit for the extensive wine list, tender game and pasta classics.