5948 Sider Rd.
Mason, OH 45040
|Hours:||Sun & Mon: Closed
Other hours coming soon, Sorry!
Appetizers: $7 – $8
Soups: $2 – $4
Pasta: $12 – $16
Entrees: $15 – $27
For anyone who remembers Mesh, over in West Chester across the highway from Rave, will be happy to know that Cafe Bella in Mason (only a few minutes drive from where Mesh was) serves similar cuisine, almost.
Cafe Bella is a very little restaurant in an equally tiny strip mall in Mason off Tylersville road near Raja India and Brazenhead, not too far from the Tylersville and 42 intersection. It’s owned by Freweini “Bella” Andemicael, who wanted to have a simple restaurant serving delicious food including Italian, Mediterranean and her native Eritrean.
Mm, Eritrean. The first time we had that was in Pennsylvania (of all places!) at a family reunion. It was some of the best food that I’d had in a long time, and I was excited to have it in Mason too. Upon our first visit we discovered that they only serve it on Wednesday evenings. Boo.
The interior is a lot of deep, warm colors and there are only a few small tables. There is a small bar and tv as well, which look to be a bit cramped but not so bad. The only thing that felt out of place was the tv – which was tuned in to ESPN. Cafe Bella seems to go for being a hip and somewhat upscale restaurant (as much as you can be with 11 or so tables total), so I didn’t think the sports really fit the image they appeared to be going for.
We’ve returned after nearly a year with a coupon (courtesy restaurant.com) to give them a proper review, as well as to celebrate my birthday (yesterday).
For lunch, Cafe Bella offers a good variety of soups, sandwiches, salads and pastas, all on the high end of reasonable. For dinner, some sections menu is quite a bit different. Since it was my birthday, we decided to splurge and get a bottle of wine with our meal: The Big Fire Oregon Pinot Noir (big points to anyone who can guess the reference that influenced that choice). It was everything a good pinot noir should be – medium bodied, beautiful aroma and very, very sexy.
To start we had the Caprini, which is a goat cheese with extra virgin olive oil and crushed chili pepper on it, Kalamata olives and toasted baguette slices. The cheese was fantastic, perfect with the olives and the baguette slices where an ideal complimentary vehicle with which to consume said cheese and olives. I could really eat this every day, if it weren’t so expensive. It also occurred to me that the menu and flavor of the Caprini in particular reminded me a lot of Mesh when it was around – and while it was still good.
The meal also came with bread and an olive oil mix that our server made right in front of us – it was pretty tasty and better than what I’ve had at some restaurants, but I really didn’t want to eat much of it since I knew we had a lot of food coming up afterward.
Our server was friendly but what struck us the most was her excellent timing of when she brought us our various items. As soon as we had finished the Caprini she brought the sides that came with our dishes, and as soon as we were finished with that we got our main courses.
For our sides I got the Tomato Basil Bisque with Pita Croutons, which was alright as far as Tomato Bisque’s go. I really love Tomato Bisque, but Bella’s just didn’t have enough flavor to it, and the pita croutons didn’t really help.
Adam got the Don Corleone salad to go with his dish, which is mixed greens with potato, green beans, Kalamata olives, red onion and hardboiled eggs. It was a really good salad, lightly oiled and everything went well together. My favorite was the olives but I just really love Kalamata olives.
For our main entrees we had the Filet Mignon and the New Zealand Roasted Rack of Lamb, rare and medium rare respectively.
My Filet Mignon was a bit more done than I would have liked but it still tasted fantastic, and came with a side of delicious potatoes and green beans. The steak itself was tender, juicy and fell apart in your mouth – and tasted really, really great with the pinot noir.
The rack of lamb was divine, perfectly cooked and had awesome flavor and texture. It came with a side of broccoli and potatoes, as well as an awesome cranberry (we think) and wine reduction. I’m pretty sure I could have just eaten the sauce alone… maybe.. overall, it was absolutely fantastic.
To close we both got coffees and desserts. I chose my favorite, Crème Brûlée, and Adam chose his favorite, Tres Leches Cake. Cafe Bella’s desserts are made daily, so items and prices vary and are not listed on the menu.
The coffee was overly bitter and just plain tasted a bit cheap, but then they didn’t charge much for it either so I’m guessing it was. However, the bitter did help to balance the sweet from our desserts. My Crème Brûlée was a generous portion and each bite was a little piece of creme heaven. The caramelized sugar on top tasted perfect and didn’t have a propane taste – something some restaurants have done which just ruins the whole dessert – and the Crème part of it was vanilla delicious.
Adam agreed, but in relation to his Tres Leches Cake. It was definitely one of the best that I had ever had, I’ll admit. I really don’t like cake, but Tres Leches – Cafe Bella’s in particular – is a fantastic exception. Soft and creamy in a thick, milky, sugary way, yet solid enough to hold together.
Cafe Bella has some great dishes, and overall is a restaurant worth trying at least once. The portions are solid, but some of the prices can get a bit up there – if you are tight on money and still want to go I suggest getting a coupon from Restaurant.com or waiting for the Independent Restaurant Week to roll around again. We will definitely be back some Wednesday evening to try and review the Eritrean menu – so keep an eye out for that!
We took a lot of pictures, so if you are curious to see more check out our Facebook gallery.
The other reviews of Cafe Bella we’ve seen have been all over the place. So, tell us, what are your thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Verdict: An Expensive, But Worthwhile Treat
Cafe Bella is a great little restaurant with some fantastic dishes, but the fantastic isn’t consistent among all of their items. The staff was friendly and had great timing as far as when they chose to give us our starters, meals and sides. The only other downsides to Cafe Bella are the prices (a bit high, but there may be a reason for this I don’t know) and the fact that it’s a bit too small in my opinion.