Bella Vita Restaurant: Yogyakarta, Central Java

Finally, it has arrived: Yogyakarta‘s first Italian restaurant. Many lovers of pizza and pasta had been waiting long for the time when this gastronomic lack in the Java tourism capital would be filled.

“We were also surprised why nobody had opened one yet — usually you can find Italian food everywhere in the world. In the end, we did it ourselves,” said Italian-born Roberto Foralosso, one of three co-owners of the new restaurant in the cozy Sagan area, called Bella Vita (beautiful life).

With a background in the furniture business, Foralosso and his partners, Dutchman David Geradts and Frenchman Hugues Revuelta, stepped into a completely new field by opening a dining venue.

“However, I grew up in a gourmet family. My brother runs a restaurant on the island of Elba and my mother comes from the Emilia Romagna region, where you can find the best food in the world,” said Foralosso, who studied design in Venice. “And dining is about more than only food: It is also about taste and entertainment.”

Neatly arranged black-and-white tables await guests to enter through the glass double doors into the dining room. A huge contemporary chandelier dominates the high ceiling, while the rest of the room is illuminated by small wall lights, immersing the area in a solemn, dim ambience.

A small salon room to the right, awash in red light with oversized traditional Chinese tattoo motifs painted on its walls, rather contradicts the atmosphere in the main dining area.

All guests are served a complementary, attractive arrangement of long bread sticks with herb-and-garlic butter and Bruschetta (roasted white bread with tomato ragout).

Even the aperitif menu keeps with the Italian style: Campari, Martini or Ricard come straight, with soda or on the rocks. The wine list offers a range of Italian and Chilean wines, starting with the recommendable house wine for at Rp 30,000 a glass.

A classic is good for a light starter — or antipasti — such as the Caprese, a tomato mozzarella salad with basil (Rp 34,000). Also very tasty is the potato cream soup (Rp 35,000) while those who prefer a little luxury should go for the Foie Gras (goose liver) with shallots on an apple bed (Rp 110,000).

The choice of Primi Piatti — or second course, which in Italy actually serves as a kind of interlude between the starter and the main course — mainly offers homemade pasta in various forms for up to Rp 55,000.

Tagliatelle in a creamy salmon sauce, spaghetti in mushroom sauce or in olive oil with garlic, Linguine Carbonara or ravioli with ricotta cheese and spinach represent standard choices of Italian cuisine.

Those guests who do not want to miss their daily portion of rice — or who cannot adapt to al dente pasta, which retain enough texture to be bitten through — can order risotto with seafood or cheese. Original herbs and spices give all dishes an authentic taste.

“Italian food is more than spaghetti and pizza. Therefore, we want to present more choices to attract the local people with new experiences,” said Foralosso.

“I feel a little bit like a cultural ambassador for my country,” he added. “There are very few Italians in Yogyakarta, and food is a good way to explain also a lot about culture and other traditions.”

Patiently, he and his stuff describe every dish on the menu that may be unfamiliar among guests new to Italian cuisine — for example, Carpaccio (shavings of raw beef or fish fillet, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice) or Ossobuco (veal shanks braised in white wine, tomatoes and spices).

In the end, however, many diners still go for the familiar in choosing their Secondi Piatti (main course), such as grilled tuna or tenderloin steak with green pepper sauce and mashed potatoes (Rp 120,000).

The obvious bestseller is Bella Vita’s pizzas, which start from Rp 65,000.

Italian favorites like the Margherita with olives or ruccola salad, the Napoletana with anchovies and capers, or the Quattro Stagioni with ham, olives, mushrooms and real artichokes are such popular orders that Bella Vita’s owners now want to open a special outdoor pizza corner with garden tables — which will also deliver.

Inside, guests are able to watch the chef and chef’s crew at work in the spick-and-span open kitchen.

“People are happy when they can see what happens in the kitchen. That is our commitment to being good and proper,” said Foralosso. “Besides, it is more lively.”

Every Wednesday night, a jazz band provides additional entertainment for dining guests.

A Bella Vita dinner can be closed with an original Italian Espresso, enjoyed with a sweet Tiramisu (mascarpone cream on biscuits soaked with coffee and Amaretto) or a fresh Panna Cotta (creamy egg custard) that melts in your mouth.

Bella Vita
Jl. Sagan Kidul No. 4
Phone: (0274) 589333
Opening hours: 6-12 p.m,, closed Tuesdays

Christina Schott