Tre Belle
 Akron, Ohio        Date of Visit  08/14/13      
http://kenstewarts.com/tre-belle/ 

Sharing a table with friends, we were hoping to put our Italian nightmare from Fiore’s behind us and headed out to Ken Stewart’s Tre Belle. If you are from the Akron area you are probably familiar with the small and higher-end culinary realm of Ken Stewart (Grille/Lodge/Tre Belle/East Bank). Tre Belle is the Italian spot conjoined with the Lodge.
 



 


 
 


Tasty Garlic Bread
 

The parking lot, which attempts to service both places is packed to capacity and we lucked into a spot just as someone was pulling out. Just inside the wooden doors is an open pizza kitchen and a few tables, there is a bar and a few more tables further into the building. The interior is what you would expect if you have been to any of the other locations, nice, not too much. We were sat next to a table loaded with hens who were clucking like they were laying asteroids and one shortcoming of the interior was immediately obvious…the acoustics are ear splitting. Once the party broke up the place settled into a comfortable din but if you are there with some folks feeling their oats, you will be screaming at the person sitting right next to you.

We were divided between two servers, both of which were personable and well trained. There were a few moments during our stay I began to wonder where they might have gotten to but for the most part they were on top of things and accommodating.
 

 
 
The "Dirty" Italian Wasn't Dirty, Italian Or Worthwhile
 

Both Sangrias Were Scrumptious
 
 

We started with some social lubricant, a Dirty Italian Martini: Grey Goose and kalamata olives. Apparently, Italians are much cleaner than other nationalities, as the vodka carried very little acid and the olives themselves seemed to have been tamed down to a whimper. Chilled vodka in a martini glass. It made me worry about the sangria we had ordered, but it was glorious. The house white wine is blended with peach schnapps and muddled with fresh citrus and a maraschino cherry. If the martini didn’t deliver the sangria did in spades, beautifully balanced and fresh we ended up ordering a carafe of the red which turned out every bit as good.

If our typical powers of gluttony are featured, this crew moves them towards legendary. As appetizers we ordered the wedding soup, a Margherita pizza and Italian nachos. The wedding soup, while again and again not what I know to be wedding soup, was definitely over salted but was also a delicious chicken noodle with meatballs. There was something deep which tasted adulty in the broth (some kind of wine maybe) and was wonderful. Very little green, dense meatballs (would be a theme) and tiny acini de pepe pasta almost made a delicious wedding soup. The pizza was traditional Margherita with a thin crispy crust smeared with smooth pomodoro sauce, checkered with Mozzarella and thin ribbons of basil. It wasn’t exciting but it was tasty and exactly what was expected.
 


 Not "Wedding" But Good Soup
 

Pizza Margherita Solid Without Wow Factor
 
 

The Italian nachos were the odder choice on the app menu and with this crew it had to hit the table. To be honest I expected very little from this plate. The menu describes lasagna chips, banana peppers, pepperoni, sausage, provolone, mozzarella and marinara sauce. I expected something like raw lasagna noodles loaded with a mish-mash of slop. It turned out to be crispy crunchy chips (are they actually pasta?) loaded with a mish-mash of delicious slop. I didn’t get any pepperoni in the clumps I broke off but the two cheeses and acidic peppers were an interesting combo which was further balanced out by the additional cup of chunky marinara. Ordered because it was interesting, found it to be really tasty.

Our final appetizer was a special upgrade of their Caprese salad. Their house version is a roasted tomato and fresh Mozzarella with balsamic pickled shallots, pepper/salt and olive oil. The upgrade replaces the roasted tomatoes with slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes and the Mozzarella with Burrata. This plate was stupendous. The tomatoes each varied in color, texture and taste all of which were elevated by the salt, pepper and oil. The balsamic soaked shallots were a perfect accompaniment and assisted the tomato in punching up the richness of the Burrata. The cheese itself had been split and laid open so the thin skin formed a cup to hold the Mozz and cream silky awesomeness. Rich and luscious, add in the spiked shallots and the varied fresh tomatoes and you have a meatless dish that will make carnivores salivate. Simple and delicious…Italian on a plate.
 

 

This Is Delicious Decadence
 

This Is Even Better With Less Decadence
 

We had ordered entrees at the same time as the apps, if we had waited we might have done far less but in for a penny in for a pound we soon had chicken parm, turkey meatballs with spaghetti, the pork chop special and spaghetti with a show. The show was the special I ordered, the pasta wheel. Just before the other entrees made their way out, one of the managers wheeled a gueridon to the table to prepare the pasta wheel table side. The bottom shelf held spaghetti, some prosciutto, halved grape tomatoes, a little herbage and the add-on shrimp. The top shelf held a small burner and a hollowed out but full parmesan cheese wheel. The show went something like this.

After sending someone back to the kitchen to get utensils the interior of the wheel was scraped with a spoon and a healthy dose of Everclear was heated on the burner. Once hot the booze was set ablaze, the spaghetti was tossed into the flames, stirred and the whole blazing mess was poured into the wheel where it was stirred (with very short tongs if you were doing the stirring) and the parm melted around the pasta strands. The rest of the ingredients are added and viola, pasta wheel. The first bite was sharply parmy with a strong note of bitterness. The problem was it wears down the palate quickly and while the tomatoes helped, the ham didn’t and there just weren’t enough tomatoes to keep the whole thing from bogging down by half way through. Nice show, mediocre dish that needed something to balance out the parm.
 


Everclear Gets A Light Before Pasta Is Added
 


Whole Mess Goes Into Parm Shell
 

And Is Stirred Around To Ensure Parmy Goodness
 

First Bites Were Nice But Became Overpowering Quickly
 

The turkey meatballs were served atop penne and loaded with marinara. The nuggets themselves were almost as dense as the traditional meatball and the little nugs in the soup. They were however nicely seasoned, moist and worked really well with the sauce. I preferred the traditional one on direct comparison but would have certainly been happy had I just had the turkey. We did add a single meatball just to see and this thing was nearly as dense as a bocchi ball and seemed to consist of a beef, pork, lamb mix. It may have been solid but it’s just as heavy with flavor. One of the best I have had in some time.

The pork special was a double chop, topped with garlic and herb Allouette cheese and resting in a meaty sauce. The cheese was a nice addition, the pork was way overdone (ordered mid and delivered chewy), that was certainly disappointing. The meaty and winey sauce was ethereal. If I had ordered the dish I might have set the chops on the table and just tilted the dish to my lips for a deep sup. That would be followed by another and then maybe a trip to the kitchen looking for a refill. So Good! The chicken parm looked great and ended up being solid if not a little above average but certainly nothing special.
 


Turkey Meatballs Surprisingly Moist & Tasty
 

Single Meatball Dense In Heft & Flavor
 

Chops Too Well But Great Sauce
 

No Complaints For Chicken Parm
 

There was no way I was going to do dessert, I was cajoled and mocked but I stood firm and I barely left the place alive. I was convinced to take a small bite of the other three desserts which with only a small bite as evidence varied significantly in success. The cannoli was half a disaster. Freshly filled, always a good sign, the filling lacked even notes of ricotta or mascarpone let alone sweet, citrus, chocolate, or anything else to elevate the cookie. Then the whole things was heavily dusted with cocoa powder flattening out any flavor there may have been. The s’more gelato had a freshly roasted marshmallow and was topped with crumbled amaretti cookies. I would have enjoyed it if I had room enough to order it. Lastly was a lightly sweet and vanillaey crčme brule. The desserts were functional but the best offerings were found earlier in the meal. You’ll find yourself shelling out more for the Ken Stewart experience but some of the dishes are worth the price of admission. Especially considering our last few outings for Italian.
 


Cannoli Is A Throwaway
 

Gelato Packs Flavor & Textural Components
 

Pretty Standard Crčme Brule
 
Sorry. No Way It Was Going To Happen.
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