Anyone who knows me knows how much I love good food. Recently, I was invited to attend the media preview of the new Bella Gelateria Yaletown location. Since I first tried Bella Gelateria’s amazing, handmade gelato a couple years ago, I have probably recommended it to dozens and dozens of people. There is just nothing quite like the taste of gelato made by James and his team. I don’t know if it is the fresh, super high quality ingredients he uses (probably) or the fact that so much love and passion goes into every batch made (this I’m quite sure of), but one taste and you will be hooked. Last year I was lucky enough to attend one of the highly coveted Gelato 101 classes offered by James, and I can attest that each batch is a labour of love. It is worth the long wait to get your hands (and taste buds) on a scoop or three of gelato.
So imagine my excitement when I received word that the long awaited sit-down restaurant location of Bella Gelateria in Yaletown was finally going to be opening. A location offering not only the world famous (literally, James is world-renowned for his work and has won several prestigious awards) gelato, but also authentic Neapolitano pizzas, desserts and the intriguing sounding gelatinis. I was in.
M and I shuttled the little dude off for a visit with his grandparents and began the trek into town. When we pulled up outside the restaurant, the first thing we noticed was the stunning location. It sat overlooking the harbour with big glass windows and an ample sized patio for people-watching and looking out over the water. Beautiful.
We entered the restaurant and several things caught my eye. The open kitchen area with the custom made Bella oven for firing the pizzas in, the large tile mosaic on one wall, the beautiful chandeliers hanging over the tables. It is not a huge restaurant, it seats approximately 80 people, and I’m quite sure that there will be lineups out the door at this location as well. It is modern, elegant, classy but still welcoming. It didn’t feel stuffy or unfriendly at all to us.
After we arrived, we were handed one of the new gelatinis. These are James’ newest creations combining, you guessed it, gelato and martins. The one we tried was the Lemon Pimm’s Isola Gelatini – described as being straight from England, it has a float of lemon sorbetto in a chilled blend of Pimm’s Number 1 Cup and ginger liqueur stirred with cucumber and mint then topped with a measure of Fentiman’s Ginger Beer. Sadly I wasn’t able to drink much of it, but I did try a bit and it was very refreshing. I think it would be lovely on a hot summer (or fall) day. Crisp, with a bit of tang, it was really quite interesting. M said it was good as well and I though that the float of lemon sorbetto just added something a bit extra to the drink.
We were immediately drawn to the aromas of fresh pizza being cooked in the wood-fired oven.
The chefs laid each pizza out on the counter, and at first, everyone was so busy taking pictures and oohing and aaahing over them, no one was eating!
Once we tucked in, though, it was heavenly. A perfect mix of dough, sauce, cheese and other toppings, the San Marzano tomato sauce gave them a bit of extra kick you don’t find in most other pizzas. We tried several different kinds between the two of us over the evening, including the Completa, which has fior di latte, prosciutto crudo, arugula, and parmigiano-reggiano; the Capri, with San Marzano tomatoes, ricotta, prosciutto cotto, fior di latte, parmigiano-reggiano, fresh basil, & EVOO oil; and the classic Margherita, featuring San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, parmigiano-reggiano, EVOO, & fresh basil. All were spectacular.
I was lucky enough to get to try a raspberry Italian soda, which was delicious. I had never had one before, and this as a great start. Not too sweet, and perfectly refreshing.
Now, no trip to Bella Gelateria is complete without some gelato. When you go to the gelato counter, you are allowed to sample 3 flavours and I’m pretty sure that in that time, you will find something you love. I adore the Buko Pandan gelato, a Filipino-inspired flavour made with coconut and pandan leaves. Smooth, coconutty and delicious. The night we were there, James had 6 different kinds of chocolate gelato on the menu, and M said the ones he tried were so good. I got myself a cup of the “Salted Pecan with Montmorency Tart Cherries & Tahitian Vanilla” gelato and wow. It was mind blowingly good. Chunks of pecans, visible vanilla bean flecks and topped with cherry drizzle left me definitely wanting more. If they have that flavour on the day you visit, be sure to try it!
Bella Gelateria Yaletown will also be the first location in North America to partner with Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University, offering an advanced internship program for aspiring galatieres. The gelato kitchen is enclosed in glass, allowing you to watch the process as it is happening.
Just to tempt you a bit more, here are a few more pictures to get you excited about visiting.