When this week’s “Best Of” poll asked readers which was their favorite Italian restaurant in town, they chose Bella Napoli. Owner Sal Siconolfi told Patch on Friday that Bella Napoli is known for good food, high quality customer service and a history of deep community involvement.
Siconolfi, who manages and co-owns the restaurant with four other family members, says Bella Napoli has been in business for 40 years, making it one of the most established restaurants in town.
“We have a very good reputation for traditional Italian cuisine,” he says. “People remember Bella Napoli from 30 years ago when it was a 12-table restaurant in Clifton-Nutley. Back then, there was a two- or three-hour wait to get in.”
The Siconolfi family, having their own deep roots in the restaurant business, bought the place six years ago and renovated parts of it, creating an atmosphere that is both modern and sophisticated while still being warm and cozy. Surpisingly spacious inside, the large, eat-in bar area is stylishly contemporary, with silver/ blue-grey walls and orange glass pendant lighting. Several separate dining rooms, each with its own distinct personality, feature rustic brick walls and banquettes for intimate dining. The restaurant comfortably accommodates 70 tables and has a private party room as well.
“My dad owned New York Pizzeria in Nutley and my uncle Jerry had Three Guys Pizzeria in Belleville,” he smiled. “Bloomfield-Belleville-Nutley is known as the pasta triangle.”
Other family-owned eateries were Luigi’s in Newark and Forte’s in Caldwell. “My uncle Jerry started cooking at age 13. This is probably his eighth restaurant. Me, I’ve been in the business since I was six.”
In addition to their experience, the Siconolfi family has shown a long dedication to the community of Bloomfield. They often host fundraisers for schools and local organizations and sponsor children's sports teams. Just last Friday, Bella Napoli hosted a fundraiser, where 10% of the evening’s proceeds were donated to Oakview Elementary School. Last summer, the Siconolfi family sponsored The Babe Ruth League, a Bloomfield baseball team, and hopes to sponsor more teams this year.
Participating in Restaurant Week is also “for the town,” says Siconolfi. “We’re trying to be supportive of whatever they’re looking to do.”
During Restaurant Week, Bella Napoli plans to serve some of their most popular dishes, such as chicken francese, veal marsala and salmon modo mio (“my own way”: broiled salmon, fresh chopped tomato, arulula, onion and olive oil.) Generous prix fixe selections also include a choice of soup or salad, pasta and coffee with cannoli or cheesecake for dessert.
In addition to the excellent cuisine diners have come to expect at Bella Napoli, the careful attention to service is something the restaurant is well-known for.
“When you go out for a meal, it’s like . . . peace time,” he says. “There should be quiet, ambiance. It’s almost like a little mini-vacation.”
The professional and friendly wait staff provide the kind of care to their customers that Siconolfi admits is rare these days. Some of the staff have worked at the restaurant for many years and care as much about the business as the owners do. Siconolfi says waitress Antonette and waiter Marcos are as cheerfully efficient as they are sensitive to the mood of the customers.
“Our job is to make sure when people leave here, they leave full and happy,” he said. “That simple.”
BELLA NAPOLI: 1640 Broad Street
Bella Napoli is open for dinner only during Restaurant Week. Their regular business hours are: Mon-Thurs from 3:30 – 10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday 3:30-12 midnight; Sunday 3:30-9:30.
Bloomfield’s Restaurant Week will take place March 4-10, with 24 participating restaurants offering special prix-fixe menus for $30 or less.