At Va Bene Caffe, the vibe is bright, yellow and quaint. The front of the restaurant is portioned off into an enclosed solarium facing the lake. There was a 35-minute wait, but that was A-OK because we were hungry, and we’ve sat there before. Highly recommended at dusk.
My eye zoomed in on the pesto frutti di mare because — pasta, pesto, seafood? Let’s do this. Steam rose from the plate of the gorgeously rich-looking dish. The shrimp fat and the scallops huge and squishy with a faintly fishy taste, buried under the noodles. The best surprise.
My dining partner reluctantly conceded to sharing gluten-free noodles with me. You could tell by the texture they were just that, but that didn’t deter from the pomp of the dish.
Parsley and large bits of Parmesan stuck, melting into the orange sauce, rich, savory and zingy. You’d lick the bowl if you weren’t in public.
It didn’t taste quite like pesto, but they cut it with Alfredo sauce, said owner Patrick Moore. Pesto isn’t traditionally mixed with sun-dried tomatoes in Italian cooking, he said, but the restaurant had an extra case of the latter, and Moore had to figure out what to do with it. So, he experimented.
It’s been on the menu for about 13 years, and the pesto frutti di mare, translation “fruit of the sea,” is one of their more popular dishes. It's a sizable portion at a pricier cost of $22, but I can taste why.
Asked about their Italian menu listings, Moore said they’re asked how dishes are pronounced all the time. “We’re an Italian restaurant and Italian tutors,” he said with a laugh.
Va Bene Caffe
734 E. Superior St.