Cucina Bella

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There's a story behind the open kitchen at this Algonquin gem: Tony Colatorti and his seven brothers and sisters adored watching their mother cook in the kitchen so much that when he opened his own eatery in 2005, having an open kitchen was a must to invoke that same feeling of love and comfort. Set in a century-old building in Algonquin's historic district, Cucina Bella features recipes of the family's Bari origins -- you can almost hear Mama Colatorti beseeching to "mangia, mangia" as you strain to finish the old-school portions. Seven shapes of al dente pasta can be dressed with a dozen different sauces, from the frisky arrabiata to Bella's own "suprema" -- a mixture of homemade alfredo and marinara. Add various veggies, meat, chicken or shellfish for a more robust meal. You won't find any small plates here; portions are as fulsome as the staff's affection for diners. Order the chicken spiddini or piccata, for example, and three eight-ounce breasts arrive; pasta weighs in at a half-pound per order. Some starters and salads come in half-portions, which is a nice touch.

Expect appetizer and entree specials evey night, as well as a regular menu with enough variety to please all palates, including steaks and prime rib, veal, seafood and house specials like homemade gnocchi and eight-finger cavatelli.

A wine roster of about 20 choices, nightly drink specials and crooners on Saturday nights keep spirits lifted after a great meal.