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BWW Preview: BETTOLA Offers UWS Neighborhood Progressive Italian Cuisine

Bettola is the culmination of culinary passion, creativity and global influences, from new owners Giga Leszay and rockstar-turned-chef Vlado Kolenic. Giga managed Upper West Side restaurants by Bettola founder Sebastiano Cappitta for 12 years and jumped at the chance to become owner, but needed a chef.

Vlado was a rockstar in the popular band TAKTICI in his native country of Slovakia (formerly Czechoslavakia), and rebelled against the Communist government by defecting to America in 1979. Vlado is also an accomplished songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist with five No. 1 songs and countless recording credits, including movie soundtracks. Giga, also from Slovakia, met Vlado on a fateful ski trip after one of her friends recognized him from TAKTICI, which sparked a friendship and eventual partnership in Bettola. The pair took ownership in May 2016, combining Giga's extensive restaurant management experience with Vlado's creativity and passion for music and cooking. Having traveled the world as a musician, Vlado was exposed to a variety of flavors and techniques that he now incorporates into the progressive Italian dishes at Bettola, combining different culinary worlds with symphonic harmony.

The restaurant invites guests with a warm and cozy interior, awash in warm shades, from the brick walls and wooden paneled ceilings, to the comforting glow and warmth from the wood fire oven, a rarity in NYC found only in restaurants through a grandfather clause, which faces guests from its position in the back of the restaurant.

The menu features Italian staples like pasta, handmade in both traditional and gluten-free options, and pizza made in the wood-burning oven. Oven-baked starters are Eggplant Napoleon, made with layers of eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella and tomato sauce. Signature pizzas include Quattro Stagioni with artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms and ham, and Afumicatta, tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and hot sausage. Other refreshing starters are Honey Bee Salad with baby arugula, diced apples, walnuts and pecorino tossed in a tangy nectar dressing.

Entrées that incorporate Vlado's playful approach to cuisine are Fantastico, a dish made of sliced filet mignon marinated in a mix of 17 spices from around the world, tossed with roasted asparagus, mushrooms, herbs and fresh fettuccine. Shrimp Prosecco combines butterfly shrimp simmered in coconut milk with Italian sparkling wine, served with Israeli couscous and fresh seasonal vegetables. For pasta, consider vegetarian option Give Peas a Chance, with sautéed snow peas and green peas tossed in a flavorful garlic cream sauce, topped with parmigiano reggiano cheese, or the vegan homage to romance Pasta Amore, with zucchini noodles and traditional flour pasta intertwined like lovers and tossed with spinach, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil.

Desserts include signature Bread Pudding in a creamy whiskey sauce and house-made Hot Chocolate Cakewith vanilla bean ice cream.

To add to the neighborhood essence of the restaurant, a Children's Menu is also available with simple, kid-friendly options like Penne with tomato sauce and Pizza with mozzarella.

The wine list is also globally inspired, developed by sommelier GabrielA Martinez Benecke, with selections ranging from California Cabernet Sauvignon to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Italian wines like Barolo, Gavi and Prosecco.

Music and food combine every Sunday for a Beatles Brunch with dishes named after songs and band members, including Here Comes the Sunny Side of Eggs, two eggs cooked to order with hash browns and fruit, and Strawberry Crepes Forever, a pairing of made-to-order crepes layered with strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. Brunch cocktails include the Twist & Shout with Absolut vodka, orange juice and a twist of lime, and non-alcoholic Hey, Juice with choice of orange, pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit or peach juice.

The restaurant also offers a late night happy hour from 10 p.m.-11 p.m. with occasional live music from Chef Vlado at the piano.

Bettola is located at 412 Amsterdam Ave. between 79th and 80th streets. Call 212-787-1660 and visit their web site at Hours of Operation: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday noon-11, Thursday, Friday, Saturday noon-11:30, Sunday noon-11 p.m. Happy Hour every night 10 p.m.-11 p.m.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bettola

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