Contemporary Italian cuisine, friendly atmosphere: Cleveland’s Mia Bella

Cleveland has a thriving Little Italy! Mayfield Road has a bunch of Italian restaurants and at the pivotal corner with Murray Hill Road sits Mia Bella. Knowing restauranteurs, I really think this is a place they’d like to hang out. Mia Bella has modern — but not precious — twists on Italian dishes in a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. People here don’t consider sitting at the bar to be second-fiddle to sitting at a table: it has its own ambiance! Plus, they have a good selection of wines and liquors/cocktails. 1950’s pop crooner music plays in the background.

I was there on a chilly, rainy evening and so, a the idea of a hot dish with lots of aspects in one appealed to me. I could tell I picked the exact right thing: “everybody” was asking what I had ordered when my dinner was presented. Scampi Pappardelle came with zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, roasted garlic, scallion. It was spicy-tangy, with veggie intensity. The big, buttery shrimp were grilled with lemon. The pappardelle was al dente and really, you can’t even find pappardelle in the stores anymore. I love that big, toothsome pasta that stands out as a centerpiece, not merely a conveyor of sauce.

For dessert, I had a house-made bowl of tiramisu, with espresso-forward flavors. It’s very rich, not one of those fluffy-nothing concoctions. Someone at the bar — a longtime Little Italy resident — insisted that I should drink with my dessert what he did, so he made those arrangements with the bartender. So, what would I be having with the tiramisu? Turns out, 30-year Taylor Fladgate port! Wow! The mellow — but not raisiny — port went perfectly.

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