Sometimes I walk into a place and feel certain they will never accommodate my vegan-ness, and that I’m bound to have a culinarily disappointing time. It’s not that I’m never right, but sometimes, restaurants can actually surprise you.
We were meeting friends for dinner last weekend in Campbell and I was the one who picked the restaurant, mostly based on location and figuring Italian food is often a safe bet. To be honest, once we walked in I didn’t have high hopes for A Bellagio.
It looked like the kind of place that would be set in its ways, sent into a tizzy by a few gentle “what exactly is in…” kind of questions. I figured it would be pasta marinara for me for sure. It didn't help that the decor was fussy and antique, including dusty old curtains that were definitely encroaching into my personal space. I was wrong. Not only about my own meal, but also my dining companions’…who declared everything (including every-decidedly-not-vegetarian-thing) to be delicious. For my starter I went with the beets, since I rarely cook those myself. Of course I had to request no cheese, but that was not a problem. Lovely golden and red beets with the lightest of vinaigrettes were a refreshing start to the meal.
The real test, of course, was my entrée. I wanted the kind of favorite dish that I would never cook myself: Risotto Porcini. Risotto isn't actually that hard to make, but it is time consuming. It's also full of vegan land mines at your typical restaurant.
Strike One is usually chicken broth. So, I ask: Is it made with chicken broth? No, it is not.
Strike Two is usually cheese, and plenty of it. So, I ask: Can it be made without cheese? Yes, it can. Then the waiter offered that it might be made with some cream, and she would have to check. I told her if they couldn’t make it vegan, I’d take the veganized Puttanesca.
She showed up at the table with a healthy portion of rich, savory Risotto Porcini. Maybe I haven’t had a “real” risotto in a long time, but I didn’t miss any ingredient that was missing. I got the savory flavor, with none of the dairy heaviness that usually accompanies risotto. To top off the evening, they carried several flavors of sorbet, including one of my favorites, lemon. True it was served in an actual frozen lemons, and I really don't think lemons are designed to be frozen, so frankly it looked a bit off-colored and kinda disgusting. But no matter. I got to indulge along with everyone else in a sweet ending to a surprising meal. A Bellagio was flexible and flavorful: an excellent combo for this vegan.
33 S. Central Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008