When Columbus returned from the New World, he brought with him the tomato, a vegetable-like fruit that transformed Italian cuisine and revolutionized the way the world expressed its displeasure to stand-up comedians. Feast on the yummy facts of yesteryear with today’s Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of authentic Italian cuisine and drinks at Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana.
Bel Piatto Cucina’s atmosphere is as Italian as its lunch and dinner menu, with crisp white tablecloths, darkened wood, clerestory windows, and a wall-mounted wine rack. Daytime diners can share an order of scampi scampette (sautéed tiger prawns, $9.95) before scarfing down a plate of penne piatto in a sausage-and-garlic marinara sauce ($12.95) or an eggplant panini ($7.95). Otherwise, keep one hand open for impromptu swashbuckling with calzones, those shy, introverted pizzas that bottle all their fillings inside—fillings such as meatballs and spinach ($9.95).
After 3 p.m., the dinner sousaphone heralds a parade of chicken dishes, such as the chicken cutlets in a lemon-caper white-wine sauce ($15.95). Veal marsala ($17.95) and filet mignon ($26.95) appear among Bel Piatto Cucina's succulent meat-slabs, and the spicy cioppino contains a veritable undersea musical number of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and salmon ($21.95). Any dish can find its soulmate among the restaurant's choice wines, which range from real Italian reds, such as the Ecco Domani ($5.50/glass; $22/bottle), to homegrown California chardonnays, such as Kendall Jackson ($8/glass; $31/bottle).
Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana
It has been more than 40 years since the Medina family immigrated to Modesto, although the recipes that they use at Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana remain just as strongly rooted in Italian tradition. The lunch and dinner menus are filled with elegant pasta, seafood, veal, and chicken dishes, as well as more casual calzones, which get stuffed with ingredients such as meatballs and spinach before being baked in the oven until their SPF wears off.
Wines ranging from real Italian reds to homegrown California chardonnays pair nicely with the entire spectrum of entrees, from the hearty pollo di parma—with prosciutto and white wine cream sauce accentuating a garlic sautéed chicken breast—to the grilled salmon fresca highlighted by white wine, lemon, capers, and cream. Appetizers such as stuffed portobello mushrooms help to launch feasts.
Bel Piatto Cucina Italiana’s atmosphere is just as Italian as its food, surrounding diners with crisp white tablecloths, darkened wood, clerestory windows, and a wall-mounted wine rack.