Table Talk: La Bella Vita at the Sagamore Resort
By Blaze Marshall
Dining out is always a special occasion for Yours Truly. No preparation, cooking and cleaning up, but rather a time to relax, be with family or friends and experience the variety of culinary offerings that this area has to offer. Whatever level; casual, chic, low, middle or high end, it’s great to sit and enjoy!
On this night out Companion and I were celebrating the end of my lengthy vacation. Albeit a fine vacation, I was home and eager to soak in the beauty of Lake George as well as some special food. We chose The Sagamore Resort’s main dining room; La Bella Vita, located in the interior of the hotel and formerly called The Sagamore Room.
Gone is the Trillium, which was across the lobby. Mister Brown’s Tavern, The Club Grille, and Lakeside Pavilion are still there. General Manager Tom Guay told us there is a new on-the-lake restaurant planned; just his description of it and the magnificent views whets your appetite.
Under the Sagamore’s new ownership, Ocean Properties and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the entire property has been elevated to one of America’s foremost resorts with impeccable service, numerous new amenities and, of course, unequalled views of “The Queen of American Lakes” and its surrounding mountains.
One should make a special trip to the hotel’s new bar and lounge; Caldwell’s granite bar top, brass, oak columns, comfortable table seating inside or on the deck and a back-bar with a huge China cabinet that rotates the brands customers call for. A very impressive start to anyone’s evening out or for the enjoyment of a casual cocktail.
La Bella Vita’s dining room is elegant and tables are set with fine crystal and linen, and some are terraced to afford better views outside. A long porch covers the southern side and in warmer weather, that location would have been our choice. The dining room was half-full with families, some golf foursomes and other guests. La Bella Vita exudes a somewhat casual atmosphere to appease all takers.
We drew Martin for our waiter and were seated by a young man who three years ago dove into Sandy Bay to retrieve Companion’s friend’s eyeglasses. What a small, but wonderful world!
We had a commanding view from our window table, looking south toward Dome Island, dusk setting in over a perfectly calm evening. A breath-taking beginning to any meal!
La Bella Vita’s menu is extensive, creative and ala carte. Martin delivered a wonderful basket of hot rolls and flatbread along with a delightful bottle of Hogue Cellars, 2007 Pinot Noir; crisp and fruity with a great body, from the Columbia Valley.
Antipasti choices include a wild mushroom risotto, bruschetta, prosciutto crusted white prawns and black mussels with garlic, Pernod and grilled Ciabatta.
There are also offerings of “Boards,” one filled with a variety of cheese, nuts and jam, another with Italian meats and a third offering a combo of both.
Insalate (salads) and zuppe (soups) include a white bean, Caprese, a Pompeii wedge of iceberg, Italian bacon, tomato, roasted red peppers and Beldi olives with a gorgonzola dressing. Tonight’s soup was creamy lobster bisque.
The dining room at La Bella Vita
Entrees range from five pasta choices including orecchiette with country sausage, rigatoni with chicken, eggplant and olives to spaghetti pomodoro with basil and fresh mozzarella. La Bella Vita’s Chef, Emily Hill, is a CIA grad from New Hampshire and is in her third season at the Sagamore.
She offers several specialita della casa including east-coast halibut with fresh tagliolini, a ‘two pound’ garlic butter poached Maine lobster, stew of coastal shellfish, grilled lamb chops and a ‘house’ surf and turf with grilled treviso, cipollini onions and two sauces.
Other choices include classic Italian dishes for the less adventurous including veal or chicken parmigiano, saltimbocca, veal scaloppini and herbed chicken or veal piccata.
Companion and I lingered over the view and the ambiance but succumbed to an appetizer of shellfish portofino; an elegant chilled tureen of jumbo king crab, Maine lobster and shrimp accompanied by a spicy red sauce for dipping. This appetizer easily serves two.
Ms. Medicine enjoyed a roasted beet salad that had both red and yellow beets, toasted pistachio, local goat cheese, citrus and arugula leaves with aged balsamic. I had my usual caesar that was crisp romaine, ciabatta croutons, imported reggiano cheese and some extra white anchovies. My caesars to date could fill the Rome Coliseum, and I am rarely disappointed. Tonight was no exception.
For entrees we both hit a home run ala Bella Vita. Companion’s wild salmon Florentine was finished in white wine, lemon and capers over wilted spinach and parmesan risotto. A large, tender filet done exactly right to the taste.
Yours Truly rarely sees braised short ribs and did not pass up the chance to try the Sagamore’s short ribs ragu; slow-cooked in a light tomato sauce with pappardelle pasta. The large flat noodles hold the sauce and the melt-in-your-mouth ribs were braised to perfection. This entrée is by far one of the most enjoyable that I have had.
The service was impeccable, water replenished throughout, wine poured but not without asking and an unannounced visit by Chef Hill to our table, was greatly appreciated.
La Bella Vita is not just for a special occasion. It is for anyone who appreciates gourmet dining, excellent service, a wonderful ambiance and an unsurpassed view of Lake George.
This combination keeps thousands coming to our area each year to enjoy, and here we have it, right in our backyard!