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Reinvention at Sandro Nardone’s Bello

The Italian word “bello” has several translations: beautiful, nice, lovely, pretty, fine.
The restaurant Bello by Sandro Nardone has one translation: wonderful.

Chef Sandro Nardone opened Newport Beach’s Bello in November 2019. He was gathering a loyal following until four months after opening the pandemic caused his restaurant to shift gears.

“I had to reinvent everything we did,” Sardone recalled. “We had to start doing a to-go menu. We did not have pizza on the menu but had to start doing that.”

Pizza has stayed on the menu, which makes sense since Nardone founded Angelina’s Pizzeria in Dana Point, which was recognized as having some of the best brick oven pizza in Orange County.

Italian Roots

Nardone was born in Atina, Italy, and grew up in a family of chefs. His parents ran a small chain of restaurants, with his mother serving as executive chef.

Nardone studied cooking in Italy and later worked at several restaurants including the famous Al Mulino outside of Rome. He also spent time dining at the most innovative restaurants in Italy to learn more about modern Italian food.

In 2012, Sandro came to the United States and founded Angelina’s Pizzeria. He had success with that concept, but his menu was limited by the size of the kitchen and he wanted to expose customers to the unique cuisine he had been developing.

He created Bello in 2019 to bring that cuisine to the dining public.

New Twists

Sandro’s dishes have roots in classic Italian cooking while offering new twists on those classics.

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves and do something unique that no other restaurant is doing,” said General Manager Ghali Benhima.

Nardone creates weekly specials for crudo, pasta, fish and dessert. Each week is different, and Nardone reprints his menu weekly to accommodate the new dishes.

He also offers a chef’s table experience with seven courses served on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 12 courses served Fridays and Saturdays. Like the other specials, these menus also change weekly.

The OCBJ Review: by christopher trela

Chef Sandro Nardone’s culinary efforts have been recognized in the hallowed Michelin Guide, and tasting his cuisine at Bello shows why.

For my recent visit, Nardone brought out an Insaltona salad with roasted squash, caramelized leek, baby tomato, fresh berries, avocado, and market lettuces, mixed in basil pepita vinaigrette.

This salad is on the lunch menu and is almost hearty enough to be a light entrée, but even better to share as a starter. The ingredients pop on the palate, and the dressing enhances the overall flavor without taking center stage.

Next came the crudo of the week, which in this case was Hamachi with soy ginger lime dressing, sweet pimento oil, herb and burnt onion.

This was fabulous crudo, with the yellowtail resting in a broth so flavorful that I ate it with a spoon to soak up the dressing with the fish.

Nardone offers a fried pizza on his menu: basically pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella, salsa pomodoro and parmigiano and then deep fried. The dish is reminiscent of a calzone, yet flatter and, for me, more satisfying.

“It’s like if pizza and a donut had a child,” joked Benhima.

I love a good pizza, and this is one version I’d order again.

Next came pollo Siciliana: Sicilian chicken, fava chicoria, and grilled lemon. It’s a simple dish, but the chicken is so moist that I could not stop eating it, and the fava beans proved to be a perfect accompaniment.

I also tried a panuozzi, which is basically pizza dough filled with ingredients—in this case skirt steak, mozzarella, roast peppers and onions, accompanied by arugula.

You could call it an Italian taco, I call it a perfect way to eat skirt steak.

By now I was stuffed and had to forgo dessert, but I’ll be back soon to try the chef’s table.
Bello by Sandro Nardone: 1200 Bison Ave., Ste. C2, Newport Beach, (949) 520-7191, bellobysandronardone.com

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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