The creamy risotto at Mia Bella can still be decadent while also gluten-free.

Image: Cherie Devine

When you glance at the menus of Mia Bella Trattoria, you'll notice the term "gluten-free" quite a bit. There's a reason for that.

"We provide flavorful meals to our gluten-free guests that make them feel first-class," said Youssef Nafaa, owner of Bella Restaurants Group (which includes the three locations of Mia Bella, plus Andalucía Tapas and Coco Crepes), who is also sensitive gluten. "We use different utensils, pans, and do not fry gluten-free items—we like to sauté and grill. We take these measures at all of our trattorias, as well as at Andalucía Tapas next door, and Coco Crepes."

Youssef, Adam Nafaa (Youssef’s newly college-graduated son), and Jose Tapia (the GreenStreet location manager and co-owner) are speaking with me about the gluten-free options in a booth, and we have a 180-degree view of the Venetian-style dining room. The light bathes the dark woods and soft, peach colors, charmingly reflected in the gold-framed mirror adorning the wall. My eyes keep focusing on the “Great Wall of Wine," which can be utilized at happy hour, where guests can potentially purchase a house-selected bottle and food for two for $20. Also featured: a $3 Campari spritz and $6 Moscow Mule.

Along with the focaccia, with extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and balsamic reduction, I chose to create my own pasta dish. I ordered the gluten-free risotto (gnocchi and penne are also pasta options) with sautéed olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms. The risotto had a creamy, basil alfredo sauce that could make any café patron swoon with satisfaction. Even hours later, I had zero discomfort. The menu also boasts a variety of high-quality meats and seafood, along with fresh vegetables and salads to go with your gluten-free pasta and wine pairings. All dishes are cooked "a la minute" to ensure the pinnacle of freshness.

As for Mia Bella, it will be hosting a 20th anniversary grand re-opening within the next several months. And Youssef also shared future plans to open a cooking school in the Heights for employee development, where they'll also test recipes and operate a commercial bakery. But for now, you'll just have to do with the four Mia Bellas, Coco Crepes, and Andalucía. And there they have gluten-free tapas and flamenco dancing. I'll definitely be coming back.

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