By Val Wallace, Contributing Writer
In the three years that Bella Vita Italian Eatery has been open, the small restaurant – located in the plaza at Liberia Avenue and Signal Hill Road in Manassas – is living up to its name, which means “Good Life” in Italian. The eatery is winning awards for its service and food and building a loyal clientele.
In 2012, Bella Vita won the reader’s choice award from InsideNoVa for the friendliest restaurant in Prince William. The eatery also received the award for best entrée at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s “Cuisine de Commerce” event in September 2012. It was selected, for its lobster and crab ravioli, from among nearly 20 other participating local restaurants, event facilities, caterers and specialty shops.
The signature ravioli dish, simmered in Bella Vita’s creamy sherry sauce, is just one of many delectable meals that patrons can ﬁnd on the restaurant’s menu, which includes authentic Italian food and also American fare. The eatery’s diversity of oﬀerings distinguishes it from many other Italian restaurants, according to Bella Vita’s manager and co-owner Tulio Torres. “We’ve got pretty much everything,” he said. “We have a variety to try to please everybody.”
Along with a wide range of freshly prepared Italian dishes – including pizza, pasta, seafood, chicken and veal – the menu also includes burgers, sandwiches, subs and even chicken wings and ﬁsh tacos. Bella Vita’s cooks make its pizza, ﬂatbreads, sauces and many other foods from scratch, Torres said. “Many things here [are]homemade. We make the bread [and]… the sauce every day. We make the dough that we make the pizza with. … All our soups are homemade,” he stated.
A goal to provide quality, fast service led Venezuelan-born Torres and Bella Vita co-owner Joe Conigliaro, a native of Sicily, to take commercial cooking courses a few years ago. The two wanted to perfect techniques on getting fresh, delicious meals to the table as quickly as possible. “When you have the techniques, you can make it much faster and easier,” Torres explained.
Fast service and fresh, sumptuous entrées are not the only ingredients in Bella Vita’s recipe for success, however. The owners are receptive to patrons’ needs and pay attention to what is popular with customers. For example, the eatery’s award-winning lobster dish began as a three-week special, but when patrons continued to request it, the owners added the meal to the menu.
They did the same with some other specials, including their tortellini Milano entrée – a popular seller, according to Torres. The dish consists of pasta ﬁlled with cheese and tossed with sausage, portobello mushrooms, shallots and red peppers in a creamy pink sauce.
Another special, churros – deep-fried pastries – became a permanent dessert menu item. “People liked them so much, we had to put them on the menu,” Torres said.
Bella Vita’s Facebook page oﬀers visible evidence of the restaurant’s popularity and is also a source of information for the owners regarding customers’ likes and preferences. Photos of families and groups gathered for celebrations at Bella Vita ﬁll the page, along with numerous comments from diners thanking the eatery for warm memories and great food. Also found are posts from the restaurant listing specials, soups of the day and any planned events.
Groups of teens dining at the eatery to celebrate their high school homecomings and proms are among the photos. “They like it here,” Torres said. “We put pictures on Facebook of all the kids who come for prom. We get … [teens from]several schools. They book their parties here.” He added that parents have called the restaurant “to thank us because their kids were pleased with the service and the food.”
Bella Vita has welcomed parties of more than 20 and seats up to 136 people in booths and tables in its dining room and a few pub tables in its cozy-sized bar area, located in the front of the restaurant. Five swivel chairs line the bar, which includes a couple of wall-mounted ﬂat-screen televisions and oﬀers a full drink menu. An “ice frosted tower” cooling system allows beer to be served at 32 degrees. The restaurant’s website boasts that it is the coldest beer in Prince William.
Bella Vita also has an outside patio, with live music on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the spring and summer. Bands play light jazz, music from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and light rock. The restaurant has food specials Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and for most of the hours it’s open on Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Retired Fairfax couple Rich and Kay Flaherty are quickly becoming fans of the food and service. Kay explained that on their ﬁrst visit, “We ate here for dinner just because we had a Groupon. We were pleasantly surprised. It was very good food. … The service was eﬃcient and attentive. … We found them friendly. … The owner greeted us.” A month later, the couple returned for a second meal. “It was very good. I think we’ll be back again,” said Rich.
Located at 9675 Liberia Avenue in Manassas, Bella Vita is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Bella Vita also oﬀers catering. To learn more, visit bellavitaonline.com or call 571-379-8643.
Manassas Park resident Val Wallace is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader and a new contributor to Prince William Living magazine. She can be emailed at email@example.com.