Brick oven is the difference

Bella Mia Pizza owner talks about `special flavor,' old-fashioned preparation

Restaurant profile

April 12, 2001|By Jody Vilschick | Jody Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As its name implies, pizza is Bella Mia Pizza's stock in trade. "Large cheese pizzas are probably our most popular item," says Ali Shenas, the restaurant's owner.

Shenas is proud of his brick oven pizzas.

"It definitely gives them a special flavor," he says. "That flavor comes from the way it's made. Like in old-fashioned Italian restaurants, we make the pizza crust onto wood boards and then transfer them onto slabs of hot brick in our wood-burning oven."

The high temperature of the bricks - from 500 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit - gives the pizzas their crispy crust.

Pizzas are available in either 14-inch or 16-inch pies, and either Neapolitan (thin crust) or Sicilian (deep dish). If you're not up to a whole pie, you can buy pizza by the slice.

Look beyond the standard cheese pizza to the Greek pizza (ground beef, tomatoes, Feta cheese, gyro meat, green peppers, onions, black olives and tomato sauce), the taco pizza (ground beef, onions, cheddar cheese and taco sauce) or the cheeseburger pizza ( ground beef and provolone, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and tomato sauce).

The menu also offers gourmet pizzas, including tiramisu (ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and hot peppers seasoned with garlic and basil), deviled pizza (hot cherry peppers, sweet Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce), spinach pizza ( spinach and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and seasoned with Italian spices) and Italian white pizza (tomatoes and broccoli and feta, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses; and seasoned with garlic and oregano).

But there's more than pizza on the menu. Other traditional Italian dishes include strombolis, calzones and pasta. Buffalo wings, a variety of traditional sandwiches, gyros and salads are available.

Subs are also popular, according to Shenas. In addition to a variety of cold subs such as Italian cold cut, ham and cheese, tuna or chicken salad, and roast beef, hot subs are on the menu. Choose from Italian cheese steak (with green peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce), pizza steak, gondola (hot Italian cold cuts with pepperoni and hot peppers) and other more traditional hot subs, such as Italian meatball, cheese steak and hamburger. Seafood lovers can choose from the fried shrimp sub, fried fish filet sub and the crab cake sub.

Bella Mia Pizza has been in Howard County for six years, although only at its current location at Routes 103 and 104 for the past three. Like the restaurant, Shenas also has moved around. Although born in Iran, he moved to the United States when he was a teen-ager. He's lived in Boston and in New Hampshire, but eventually settled in Howard County to open Bella Mia Pizza.

"It's great to live here - there's a nice family atmosphere here in Howard County," he says.

"I love making food," Shenas adds. "I get a lot of joy from serving my customers and seeing them leave satisfied. It's a great feeling."

Bella Mia Pizza

Where: 4900 Waterloo Road, Ellicott City; 410-465-9335.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Prices: Appetizers: $1.99 to $3.99; entrees: $3.25 to $17.99.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

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