This stately lady in Langhorne Borough, Bella Tori at the Mansion, dates back to 1898. Philadelphia entrepreneur, Howard Reifsnyder, built the Greenwood Mansion (as it was known then) as a summer home for his family until it was sold to Mollie Woods Hare in 1921. Then used as The Woods School for Handicapped Children and Adults, until it was purchased in 1999 by Paul Manes who took over 5 years restoring “Bella” to her original grandeur. In November 2005, the mansion reopened its doors as a beautiful victorian restaurant and catering facility featuring Italian fare.
A few short minutes from our home, Bella has been the site for many a memorable meal, including our wedding dinner reception in 2012, above. We also enjoyed a New Year’s Eve dinner (date forgotten); and an Easter Sunday brunch in 2014, below, after enduring a cross-atlantic flight from Italy when jet lag was so severe, we couldn’t even contemplate the thought of cooking—an unusual predicament for us to be in.
Our most recent visit was on St. Patrick’s Day with our friends Rosanne and Gary Zarrilli. Granted, Bella’s menu is not even close to Irish, but that didn’t deter us because we started out at home with some decadent Reuben Dip and a bottle of Killian’s Irish Red to tide us over until dinnertime.
The ride over is literally two minutes from home and we could have walked save the fact that it was blustery cold. Upon arriving at the 9,000-square-foot establishment, we were promptly seated in the main dining featuring a Mercer tile fireplace. The decor is lavish and very Victorian, and the noise level is pleasantly low key.
For starters, we agreed to split a bottle of Marques de Riscal, from one of our favorite wineries in Spain. Our waitress Keira (decidedly Irish) was a small bundle of pep and kept the evening going at a leisurely pace, and was kind enough to take our group photo.
Even though we noshed on some of that Reuben Dip, we went all out and ordered a few more appetizers. Russ and Rosanne were fixated on the Oysters Bienville, and chose to split the selection. Four beautifully baked oysters with shrimp, bacon, ham and mushrooms were topped with sherry cream and Parmesan bread crumbs. Thoughtfully plated with two forks, they adored them!
Gary chose the Winter Bella Salad comprised of baby spinach, Bartlett pear, dried cranberries, chévre, pickled red onion, toasted almonds and dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette. I was torn between that and the Shrimp Le Jon, but with Russ’ persuasion, I opted for the shrimp (because he was going to eat some of it.) Three roasted shrimp were stuffed with horseradish grain mustard, wrapped in bacon and served atop a lemon sun-dried tomato aioli with a basil chiffonade, exquisite!
There were so many good options under the Entrées, that it was difficult at best to make up our minds. After some back and forth, Russ chose one of his favorites, the Chasseur Veal Osso Buco. Slow-braised in a hunter sauce, it came plated over roasted butternut squash with a side of spinach risotto topped with a citrus gremolata. He was very impressed that they served it with a spoon in the bone to scoop out the marrow—to him, a sign they know what they’re doing.
Again I was torn between the French Quarter Shrimp & Scallops, which Rosanne selected, and the Dijon Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb. Choosing the latter, my four ribs (you could also order eight), were perfectly cooked, seasoned panko crusted New Zealand lamb chops which came accompanied by a red wine demi-glace, and paired with grilled asparagus and an overcooked baked potato (the only misstep of the entire experience.)
Rosanne’s seafood dish of grilled scallops and shrimp arrived in a Creole tasso sauce and were tossed with roasted trinity vegetables, cheese and scallion grits. While Gary didn’t surprise any of us with his choice of Veal Parmitori, a ginormous cutlet, lightly breaded and fried and topped with Pomodoro sauce and aged provolone cheese over a bed of linguine. Suffice it to say, we all denied dessert and took four doggie bags home.
We’re looking forward to patronizing Bella on a Friday when you can bring your own bottles of wine with no corkage fee (the DaVinci Bar is still open) and they feature a live classical guitarist in the house. It’s a fabulous place to celebrate any special occasion or just because you want a good meal. Below are some pics of that great Sunday brunch.