This will be the fourth resurrection of a restaurant on the site that I can recall. A previous venture sent the gourmet world of Nicosia – not a large gathering – all a’tremble with excitement. The proprietor was from the neglected bastion of the heretical Cathars in Southern France, and he served the rural dishes of his region. I recall the sweetbreads, pig’s feet and calf cheeks; all wines from Pay d’Oc. After giving a warm review, the whole operation disintegrated a couple of weeks later when the chef departed, to be replaced by a master of souvlakia to the great disappointment of the knowing ones.
However, Bella Vita can hold its own. The companion and I arrive early on a Wednesday night and are greeted by the ever charming Dani, the son and heir of Joseph, the proprietor. Choosing to sit outside we were surrounded by wood, tables so solid you could hold a conference on them, it was all very airy, a most comfortable ambience. Bella Vita: most accurate. Drinks; no ouzo, most unusual, but we have a host of ‘digestifs’ none better than the Jagermeister and the Fernet Branca. One of each is a good start. We are determined to eat marine dwellers, well I am, although the companion is wavering; she has seen the duck breast, but I am able to convince her that properly cooked duck, slightly pink, will feel very comfortable with a quality rosé; she is not convinced but the house is offering a Lazaridis Black Sheep at €23, she relents.
Encouraged to lift our heads above the wine list we are engaged with the simple menu. Four starters, three salads, and six main dishes and six pastas; with burgers and pizzas for those that like them.
The starters include a dish of green lipped mussels, very reasonably priced, served in a tomato sauce with home-made bread, just what I want to go with the rosé. The companion wants the Sea Bream Ceviche – raw bream in lemon juice with pineapple chutney, lime and grapefruit segments. The rosé is winning. Green mussels come from New Zealand and no-one tries to pretend otherwise. Properly handled, and given the restrictions on New Zealand products they will be at their best before service. I have a plate of great fat creamy bivalves, the sauce is just right and there are more than expected; seven in all. Not easily detached from the adductors – a good sign – I wish I had more. The Italian is very pleased with her delicate dish and agrees the rosé is a good companion.
The salads include a salmon gravlax and a goat cheese with cherry tomato and almond flakes, but we pass on this; we seek nourishment. The main card offers an extraordinary range; it is not extravagant, but surprising. It starts with a Shi-drum fish with radishes, chickpeas, capers, cherry tomatoes, smoked aubergines and parsley salad. We have no idea what a Shi-drum fish is. It also includes Rib-Eye steak, Boneless Chicken, Salmon fillet, and a Duck Fillet. Madam wants this: still on the rosé. Dilemna: I also wanted the duck. Alas. Try something else. Certainly. Seafood Linguine. The chef divining my predilection for big fat mussels decided to flatter me with a second helping; normally this dish will pay lip service to the ocean, but not here. The pasta got in the way of the marine dwellers. An absolute cracker.
The sweets were suicidal and should not be looked at by anyone over 30. They are perilous.
My only criticism: the bread was awful. But how do you complain about a management, who on hearing that you have never tried a Jagermeister gives you two. Best night out in a long time. These guys know what they are doing and will thrive.
WHERE Bella Vita, Archangelou Michael, old town, Nicosia
WHEN Monday-Friday: 7pm-12am, Saturday: 10am-3pm and 7pm-12am, Sunday: 10am-3pm
CONTACT 22 262369
HOW MUCH salads from €7.50, mains from €11