La Bella Ferrara
Little Italy, NYC
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Rosie, ThePlazaQueen, SteakGril, Diana, Wraith6, Runt, Farklempt
This place serves all manner of what we now consider to be traditional Italian desserts, though according to many in the know, Italians are like the French in that they didn't have these things till they got the idea from the Austrians ... before that, the dolci or "sweets" were more like simple meal finishers. Not grandiose concoctions of cream and caramel and flour.
So it stands to reason that as beautiful as the many things in the chilled case were, it would be best to go with simpler. Besides, it was hot and we'd just eaten too much pizza ... so we figured we'd get "unusual" drinks and some ices. After all, every childhood has memories of "Italian ices," right? We were looking forward to upgrading the memory.
They didn't have limonata soda (they'd run out), but we did try "Manhattan Special" -- a coffee soda! And "Chineca" (is that the right name? Sorry, none of us can remember!) -- described by the waitress as "sour soda." We figured it was likely similar to lemon and ordered one. It is indeed citrussy, a bit grapefruity. Was good! We'd had the limonata previously, and that's great too -- we hope they stock more of the popular, tiny bottles of the yummy citrus refresher soon. We also got raspberry syrup in seltzer and the usual Sprites and stuff. And a lot of ice and water! (Thank goodness no drought this year. In the past, restaurants didn't serve water when the reservoirs were too low.)
As for the ices, they hollow out fruits and use them as frozen recepticles for the chilly sorbets. They come out with a frost forming on the surface due to the heat and humidity, and they are really beautiful! The peach sorbet has an additional bonus -- you can eat the frozen peach, too! The only disappointment was the raspberry; we had ordered it simply to see how they'd hollow out raspberries to stuff with the sorbet, but they didn't. It came in a pretty glass, piled high. The coconut sorbet came in the inner husk of the fruit, and we originally thought it was a plastic plate, but no, it's really the coconut husk! We liked the look of the orange sorbet in it's orange container. We talked about how our ideal wedding meals would include these frozen confections!
Some insisted on ordering things like cannolis stuffed with cassata chopped into a cream, or tiramisu. They were good too, but in this hot, humid weather, it was the liquid and frozen refreshments which really hit the spot. We'll have to come back when it's colder to appreciate the heavier, more modern desserts.
The decor is great -- the walls were stripped back to the native bricks from which the place is built. One wall is lined with mirrors, to dispel the claustrophobic feel of this cramped space, and the kids in the group enjoyed pouting and posing at their reflections. The tables are long and narrow, not meant for real dining, but perfect for snacks or dessert -- kind of like sitting at a counter. Like many traditional eateries, photos of stars who have patronized the place are hung on the walls, usually with the owner and servers beaming beside them. This "wall of fame" is like the who's who of gangster films, with every thug you've ever seen on the big and little screens having come by for a snack or a coffee. It's rather corny, but rather homey and fun, too.
The bathroom is small but clean, and a godsend in a city that doesn't provide public toilets. If you are touring this town, be sure to use the facilities in anyplace you stop, if they have one. Not doing so might result in accidents and discomfort later (and not always to you!), especially if you've rehydrated on liquids here.
The price for these frozen desserts and sodas was reasonable. They are big and could be shared, which we did. So our entire bill was about $30 for everything. A good deal, and a nice place to re-energize for further tourist activities!
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