Monday, July 2, 2007

Dinner at Sette Bello

Sette Bello is a lovely, fairly relaxed Italian restaurant right in the heart of Clarendon near the metro stop. Owned by the same folks who do Cafe Milano in Georgetown and Sette Osteria in Dupont, Sette Bello is a great go-to place when in Arlington and in the mood for Italian fare. The ambiance of warm yet modern - earthen brown tiled floors, warm lighting and simple yet quite attractive decor of authentic Italian prints, large wine bottles and various types of plants lend to a really appealing atmosphere for dining. The menu is quite similar to that of Sette Osteria, but has also has a Tapas or small plates menu, which is perfect for sharing a couple of items to start a meal. We decided to go with Calamari Panarea and Spiedino Caprese to start. The calamari was perfectly cooked and was beautifully cut into thin but still substantial ringlets. The squid was served in a tasty and thick tomato sauce flavored with capers, black olives, oregano and a good hint of garlic. The sauce reminded me of a thicker version of that which would come with steamed mussels done in an Italian style. The capers added a briny essence to the sauce and really enabled the juice of the olives to pop in your mouth. The Spiedino Caprese is brochettes of mozzarella and cherry tomatoes served with a nice bed of arugula which was very lightly dressed in olive oil, and the dish was sprinkled with a chiffonade of basil which was a really nice accent. The dish worked well as a small starter to whet the appetite a bit. For my main course, I ordered my usual Campagnola Salad with grilled chicken. The salad consists of arugula and shaved fennel with thick slices of shaved Pecorino and lemon vinaigrette. The fennel really makes the salad. The paper-thin shavings add the perfect anise-like flavor which cuts the fruitiness of the lemony dressing and also works nicely with the arugula. I love the kitchen at the Settes prepares meat - generally the cuts are pounded quite thin which makes for even-cooking and a moist and tender quality. I think that if you aren't doing a salad or a meat dish as a main course, the the way to go at the Settes is pizza, but Mezzeluna Alla Contadina on the pasta menu looked especially interesting so I recommended trying it out. The dish is pumpkin and amaretti filled pasta with butter and sage sauce. I think the amaretti adds a bit too much sweetness to the dish, and thought it could have used a sauce more heavy on the sage and brown butter instead of pumpkin, but it was still quite enjoyable. A bottle of Lagaria Pinot Grigio was the perfect thing to drink with the meal, and its crisp and refreshing quality worked with all of the dishes we had. I am already looking forward to a return visit to Sette Bello for another enjoyable, tasty and relaxing meal.

Sette Bello
3101 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA

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