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Lansing, Michigan, United States
I am a Lansing townie, lawyer, and restaurant reviewer for the City Pulse. I love traveling, reading, yoga, and baking, but my favorite hobby is stuffing my face.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bistro Bella Vita, Grand Rapids

Last night a pal and I went to Grand Rapids to see some celebrity chefs talk to each other at DeVos Hall. Maybe this sounds like a weird event to you, but the participants were this foul-mouthed bowl full of swagger and this full-lipped Frenchman.

Eric Ripert is a GOOD. LOOKING. MAN. Wowza. Also, his French accent makes me physically miss that country. Yes, I am aware of how pompous that sounds. Excuse me for being cultured.

We left Lansing four full hours before the show started, thinking that we would have a nice, leisurely dinner. It's a good thing we left that early, because we got to our seats as the lights were going out. I don't know how this happens. Maybe I need to talk less.

That's never going to happen.

Anyway, upon the suggestion of a friend who lives in GR and knows the dining scene much better than I do, we went to Bistro Bella Vita. We rolled in right after 4:00 and were asked by two different staff members if we had a reservation. People were sitting at three tables and everything else was open, so I thought that this question was maybe a little bit- I don't know- ridiculous?

As usual I was dead wrong, and within an hour the place was totally packed. Our server was Alyssa. After dinner last night, I am now in love with Alyssa. She knew we had never been there before and I told her that I wanted some guidance on the menu. Actually, my exact words were "I need some help with this. Tell me everything." Instead of looking at me like the weirdo I am, she dove right in and gave us impeccable guidance. We were thinking of starting with the bruschetta, but she suggested the wild mushroom polenta instead. Yes, I hate cheese, but I love polenta.

When this came to the table, my friend hadn't decided which entree she would order. Alyssa didn't have a problem with that and she didn't try to rush us. She came back a few more times to ask us if we were ready, and when we finally were, we ordered. The paella for me and the four cheese ravioli for her. When Alyssa was telling us about the entrees and she started talking about the paella, she said it was her favorite thing on the menu. I was sold before she finished her sentence.

The paella was delicious. The chorizo was nice and spicy and there were MASSIVE tiger shrimp buried under that rice. The asparagus still had a snap to it. Fun fact- I hate risotto because I always expect the texture to be gummy and sickening, and I took a chance knowing that this was prepared in a similar way. Fortunately, the rice was perfectly al dente. I will still never order risotto, so don't even try it. I don't know how the ravioli was, because I would rather eat expired yogurt than eat cheese-filled pasta pillows.

After dinner we obviously wanted dessert, and we debated between the warm chocolate cake and the tiramisu. It has been a thousand years since I last had tiramisu. I was due for a refresher course. So we went for the pour-over coffee for two and tiramisu, which was presented in a martini glass. I'm not wild about presenting food in a martini glass. You?

I had no idea what pour-over coffee was, but the manager came to the table with this little diffuser full of ground coffee over which she poured hot water. The water streamed into the pitcher below the diffuser and voila- delicious coffee.

I was blown away by Bistro Bella Vita. As a matter of fact, I just called and told the manager how much I enjoyed our meal last night and how impressed I was by our server. I have never worked in a restaurant and don't really know how things operate, but I imagine that they don't get many calls from pleased customers. As with most things in life, the people who call are probably the people who want to complain. I've been trying lately to let people know when they give me exceptional service and to thank them for it.

I'm going back to GR next month to see this band (I have also been trying to develop better taste in music, because mine is seriously embarrassing.) I'm going to suggest that we have dinner beforehand at my new favorite GR restaurant, Bistro Bella Vita. The manager who I just spoke with advised that I make a reservation in advance.

Bistro Bella Vita
44 Grandville Avenue SW
Grand Rapids
(616) 222-4600

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