I can’t help but wonder what goes on in other cities across the world when it comes to dinner time. The experience can be one of great comfort or discouragement. In my home it was one of curiosity. You see, my mother was hardly Julia Childs, or Julia insert name_. My morning breakfast might have been the all time favorite “Waffles with Cheerio and walnut stuffing”.


So for me as I get older I am drawn to wonderful food, a great experience and the appreciation of things done well. So I will attempt to pass on my experience of these things through my list of “Top Fives” which I will post here on a continuing basis. I will encourage the owners to put their “best foot forward” and give me their flagship to photograph. The results should be great.

Bell Italia started as a small storefront, but with an incredible menu and an incredible staff, you could see that it was going to change. This wasn’t going to stay a secret.

My first entry is Bella Italia. It is an incredible Italian restaurant in Modesto. When we first started going there it was a small storefront. If you weren’t at the restaurant by 5 PM you would be resigned to wait out front on the sidewalk (They do have rows of chairs), until a table made itself available. Now they have expanded into the next space of their complex, and still, I had to ensure my shoot finished promptly by five for a large party that was coming in.

The man and his Masterpiece

On one of our first visits there, I wanted to do something special for my wife. So I stopped in the restaurant early to leave some flowers and a card. They would later bring them to our table after we were seated to surprise my wife. I’m always wary of this type of maneuver. I had tried this many years earlier when I proposed to my wife. In that run I really believed it would be a major crash and burn. But she said “Yes” so I’ll move on with the story.

Bella Italia's beautifully presented shrimp pasta.

After we were seated and the the drinks arrived, the flowers made their entrance. It was neat to see the choreography play out. As an added bonus our waiter lit the candle at our table with a small flourish. Everything was proceeding smoothly. Romance was in the air.

We received our dinner and ooh’d and aah’d with every bite until finally our plates were embarrassingly spotless. They asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, which we naturally obliged, although we only wanted one thing for dessert, tiramisu.

After pointing out that there was no tiramisu on the menu, the waiter disappeared. After a brief pause, the Chef came out personally and hand delivered a piece of tiramisu surrounded by a light raspberry sauce, with two forks. Having our appetites totally sated and enjoying the chefs “secret stash”, it was time to call it and evening.

Ben suonato Bella Italia, ben suonato

So this is the first of my top five features. It’s on to find the next four restaurants and move on to another category. I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed my experience there.