Last year some co-workers and I enjoyed a lunch at Bella Napoli near Northwoods Mall. Gnocchi lover that I am, I was thrilled with the tasty gnocchi dish that I had at that lunch.
Fast-forward to a year later. I kept hearing the name of a new Italian restaurant, La Fontana, that had opened here in my neck of the woods: West Ashley. Come to find out, La Fontana existed in West Ashley several years ago and had now re-opened in an old, vacant pizza restaurant on Savannah Highway. And come to find out, La Fontana is related to not only Bella Napoli (in North Charleston) but also Cuoco Pazzo (in Mount Pleasant). Once I learned that, I knew it was just a matter of time….that gnocchi was calling my name!
Richard and I met up on a Saturday night with my great friend Lisa and her wonderful guy Lars. I’d called ahead and been told that La Fontana accepts reservations only for 6 or more, so we decided to show up at the early hour of 6pm. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nearly-full parking lot and restaurant. This place obviously already had a following that may have included some grateful returning customers from their former West Ashley location. As we entered, I was also pleased to see some attention to redecorating. The previous pizza chain decor was now nice, comfortable, and obviously Italian-themed (as it should be).
Our server, Giovanni, did an excellent job throughout the evening. He seemed to know just when to show up, was knowledgeable of the menu, and provided helpful suggestions about wine and food. At his recommendation, Richard and I chose a more full-bodied Italian by-the-glass red wine: Banfi Col di Sasso. It did not disappoint, and it was reasonably priced. We skipped salads and appetizers and went for the real deal: three of us (including me, of course) ordered the gnocci (actually, it was Gnocchi alla Sorrentina). The gnocchi was described on the menu as potato dumplings tossed with a homemade pomodoro and basil sauce. While any of the pastas could be ordered with meatballs, chicken, shrimp, or sausage, all three of us opted for the meatless version. On the other hand, meat-eater Richard couldn’t resist ordering the Salsiccia alla Griglia (described on the menuu as sausage sauteed in a garlic and white wine butter sauce).
While we waited for our meals, Giovanni brought out a nice basket of what appeared to be Italian bread and it was simple but tasty. We also were pleased to have one of the chefs (from Naples, Italy no less!) drop by our table. When he saw Richard taking photos, the chef kindly offered to take a photo of the four of us. How nice is that! He also spent some time talking with us and told us that he hoped we enjoyed our meals. Wow! I was really impressed with that. The restaurant was full, the pace was busy, but one of the chefs still took time to come by, chat, and even offer to take our picture.
After a relatively short period of time, our meals arrived. Given how busy the restaurant was, I was quite surprised that we were served so quickly.They obviously have their act together in that kitchen! Giovanni offered us parmesan cheese and later stopped back to make sure we were enjoying our food. I loved the gnocchi – just as delicious as those I’d had at Bella Napoli. I love that dish! Richard’s entree was such an interesting take on Italian sausage. I’d never before seen Italian sausage served with such a delicate sauce (I’m used to the marinara-sauced offerings on most Italian menus. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!), served with linguini. Richard said it was a truly smooth and excellent sauce, and all-together a wonderful entree.
Giovanni was back, to tempt us with dessert (and of course, I can be tempted!). Richard went with the homemade tiramisu. He said it was among the best tiramisus he’d ever had, and it had a delicate and sophisticated texure. I tend to be disappointed with Italian desserts (just bein’ honest), so I was happy when Giovanni told us they had my fave, red velvet cake, on the dessert menu (along with cannoli and chocolate cake). Red velvet – that’s all I had to hear. While likely not homemade, the red velvet cake was high quality and very tasty. Friends Lisa and Lars decided to share a dessert (a concept I’m unfamiliar with), and they too went with the red velvet. I noticed that they (like me) had an empty dessert plate at the end of meal.
My take on the meal? Very tasty cuisine, good value, excellent and efficient service, and people who care running the place. I love to support good, locally owned restaurants, and I’m happy to see this one already doing so well.