You won’t find a hearty Spaghetti and Meatballs, or for that matter a cheesy Chicken Parmesan on the menu at bNapoli Italian where the focus is on authentic Italian cuisine combined with a fine dining experience.
“My dream behind bNapoli was to offer customers dishes you would find from different regions of Italy, but predominately Southern Italian cuisine which is my heritage. I wanted to create a cosmopolitan atmosphere like you might find in a New York, Miami or Boston restaurant, where you could forget for a minute that you are in Western Massachusetts,” said owner Jerry Moccia.
Moccia brought everything he knew with him from Italy - from his authentic Italian heritage to Italy’s regional cuisines - when arriving in the United States in 2001. He arrived in Springfield from a little town outside of Naples, where the restaurateur grew up with parents who owned a restaurant.
“The hospitality industry became a part of me over the years. I had family in America and had been coming here every couple of years, only this time one thing led to another and I decided to stay. My first job was working for a food distributor based in Springfield, where I was a field rep selling to restaurants. I always had it in my mind to open my own restaurant here. When I learned about a pizzeria in West Springfield that was up for sale, I made the investment in my future and opened what today is Bella Napoli Pizzeria and Catering,” said Moccia.
“Bella Napoli was a very busy pizzeria. It continues today to offer many Italian American dishes using the same highquality ingredients that we are known for at bNapoli - from PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) San Marzano tomatoes grown in a small region between Naples and Salerno to our own homemade rustic pasta made from 100% semolina. Its success allowed me in 2014 to purchase the former Curry Copy Center next door and fulfill my dream of opening a full-scale dining experience later in 2016,” he added.
Moccia noted what became apparent to him was the fact that many people in Western Massachusetts thought of Italian as Spaghetti and Meatballs or Chicken Parmigiana.
“That isn’t what you find in Italy. We have spaghetti, but you eat your meatballs separately, and our chicken is more like a Milanese topped with arugula,” he added.
What diners can expect when at bNapoli is a menu rich with all foods you would find in Italy’s many different regions.
“We do Polenta the correct way, it’s a Northern Italian dish, and we marry that with Salt Brick Chicken, which is chicken under a salt brick that releases salt as the chicken cooks in the oven. We also do a pan roasted Branzino that is typically found in Naples and Sicily, and another dish ‘to die for’ is our grilled Cyprus Octopus appetizer or ‘anti pasti’ as we call them, made with preserved lemon, evoo, and mint. Then what we do is take these typical true Italian dishes and modernize them with today’s culinary techniques and garnishes,” Moccia said.
Among the other many true Italian pasta dishes on the bNapoli menu include Veal Bolognese, Skillet Rigatoni Alfredo, Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi and Chitarra, while other entrees consist of Saffron Risotto, Veal Filetto, Veal and Ricotta Meatball, Cioppino, as well as a 30-day, in-house, dry-aged Angus Ribeye and Atlantic Haddock.
It is a common fact that wine and food pairings, whether in Italy or the states, go together and bNapoli has a selection of over 100 wines - stored in a state-of-the-art wine room - to perfectly complement whatever Italian dish you order. Their wine list is updated on a weekly basis to pair with their farm-to-table menu.
Moccia noted they take “great pride” in their craft cocktails that rival those created at the much beloved Hawthorne cocktail bar in Boston that closed earlier this year.
“Craft cocktails are as important to customers today as your dinner menu. We make all of our own infusions and we don’t use flavored liquors. Our simple syrups such as blackberry and strawberry are made in-house from our own purees, and we also make our own Limoncello and Irish Crème,” he said.
The current drink menu includes over 30 cocktails from “nuova” such as their Spiced Pineapple DTO and Summer Blossom to “classico” including a Vodka or Gin Martini, Cosmopolitan and Manhattan, as well as “aperitvo” from their Americano, Giro d’Italia and Negroni Bianco. Diners can also build their own margarita drinks. Similar to their food menu, all ingredients are listed on their website.
Desserts, or “dolci” as they say in Italy, on the current menu include a Lemon Curd Brulee of blueberry, toasted almond, lemon and mint; Triple Cioccolato di Mousse made with white, milk and dark chocolate, and genoise; Affogato bNapoli consisting of gelato espresso, fresh cream and pistachio biscotti, and Budino di Caffe, a coffee pudding, with salted caramel and hazelnut brittle.
Attention to details - from cocktails to service to food preparation - is number one in the restaurant business, Moccia noted.
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen. Even the tiniest of details can make a big difference, like how we scrub our clamshells by hand before plating them, making our own whipped cream, or desserts from scratch,” Moccia said.
“We are also all about customer service. When you go to a nice restaurant you want to feel important, and it is our goal to make everyone feel like a VIP when they walk through our doors,” he added.
While some food critics and diners might refer to bNapoli as “high end,” Moccia prefers to call it “high touch,” which is a more modern term today with a focus on the customer.
Still, if it is Spaghetti and Meatballs the American way that you crave, Moccia’s Bella Napoli Pizzeria and Catering offers the American Italian cuisine you crave. The nearly endless menu consists of everything from thin or thick crust gourmet pizzas, grinders and sandwiches, calzones, wraps and more to full dinners including Veal and fresh free-range Chicken Parmigiana and Marsala to house Fried Fish and almost any combination of pastas you can think of all alongside several desserts including the ever-popular favorite - Cannoli.
And, if you really need that Chicken Parmigiana or another dish not on the menu, Moccia said they will make an entrée upon request for a guest “as long as we have the proper ingredients on hand.”
bNapoli is located on 185 Elm St. inWest Springfield. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m.
For more information, visit bnapoliitalian.com or call 413-240-2106 for reservations.
Hours at Bella Napoli Pizzeria
Located next to bNapoli are Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and
Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. Delivery is available by calling 413-734-7400.
For more information, visit bellanapolima.com