Islander Terrace's Bella Italia - Sensational Italian Cuisine
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
The Hilton's done it again! In a glorious tribute to Italian cuisine, the Islander Terrace has launched what will possibly become one of their most popular buffet theme nights - "Bella Italia" on Tuesday nights. "Beautiful Italy" is an apt name for this culinary display, which will truly overwhelm you with the variety of food choices. In fact, the single most repeated customer "complaint" was that there was far too much food to eat! No worries - you'll just have to make more than one visit to Guam's latest Italian food experiences. The single most asked question for bedazzled diners was "where do I begin?"
Traditionally, in an a la carte menu setting one would start out with anti pasti appetizers. At the Bella Italia buffet you do that by going to several locations to select cured meats such as salami and prosciutto, seafood, pickled and grilled vegetables, cheeses, and breads. Bella Italia's buffet boasts multiple starting points, including a live action fresh-baked Pizza station manned by a chef; a live Caesar Salad & Prosciutto station; a marvelously appealing Pasta station where you can get pasta just the way you like it; a tantalizing fresh-baked Italian bread stand; a Cheese & Cured Meat table; the Island Terrace's legendary salad bar with more ingredients than you can sample in 3 visits; and the hot food selections that are filled with an array of classic Italian entrees. Of course, you can always just start out with a glass of Chianti or Cabernet and relax a bit before starting on the food.
My first food choice was a bowl of Minestrone. It was well flavored and contained all the fresh ingredients you'd expect from any Italian restaurant or home. I complemented my soup with several pieces of bread. The bread station is intriguing, and contains several focaccia bread creations. One large cake-sized loaf was baked with cherry tomatoes and rosemary sprigs, while other round loaves were baked with black and green olives. Crisp bread sticks and round baked rolls were also available.
I had a memorable Caesar Salad made using fresh garlic, bacon, parmesan, and seasoned croutons. Although the dressing was pre-made in the kitchen, it blended perfectly with the crisp romaine and was richly flavored. Be sure to sample a few pieces of pizza that Chef Robert is making up from scratch and baking! Cheeses, olives, seafood, ham, onions and other toppings adorn these varied pizza creations.
Of all the areas, though, the pasta station was on my priority list. You will be impressed by both the presentation and variety of ingredients to be sauteed and then mixed with your choice of pastas and sauces. Choose from fresh tomatoes, red & green bell peppers, eggplant, red onions, zucchini, crushed red pepper, green onions, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes to saute and mix with over a dozen pasta types. Pasta choices include tortellini and ravioli (both with spinach variations as well), manicotti and gnocci. The sauces include marinara, seafood marinara, cheese sauce and a meat sauce. My combined pasta creation was fabulous, with cheese and meat-filled raviolis and tortellinis blended with sundried tomato laced marinara.
There are too many hot entrees to list in this review...you'll just have to go see for yourself. Among the items I sampled were crepe-wrapped asparagus spears drizzled with a special sauce; Calamari Ripieni (stuffed squid); Mussels Au Gratin; Red Snapper in a Spicy Tomato Sauce; Roast Chicken; Pork; Roast Lamb, polenta; sardine-wrapped olives; Mozarella-topped tomatoes, and a cornucopia of ingredient combinations. One thing for sure - you will not walk away disappointed.
Executive Chef Christofe Durliat and Executive Sous Chef David Spitzer were actively greeting customers and managing their crew - it's an awesome display of culinary activity. It is apparent that considerable advance planning was done to execute so lavish and comprehensive a meal. The detail is impressive, including special platters and decorative serving ware to bring even more authenticity to this Italian themed-feast. And yes, you'll hear Italian background music - like icing on a cake. Speaking of cake...there are several specialty desserts...I settled on a selection of fresh fruits that I covered with a creamy saboyan.
You must allow yourself adequate time to "graze" at this meal...with such a wide array of choices, you can probably sample only forty to fifty percent of the available selection. A fitting Italian-style dessert is either biscotti or tiramisu, or even a plate of pungent cheeses to go with wine or port. An eye-catching aperitif display of Sambuca, Frangelica, Grappa, and some sweet dessert wines is near the entrance. The display features a statuette of Venus in a shell with water cascading from tulips.
Bella Italia happens every Tuesday, replacing Epicurean Night. It starts at 6pm and ends at 9pm, and is priced at $32 per person. It is well worth the investment - after all, it's like going to Italy without having to fly! Try "Bella Italia" at the Islander Terrace...you a gonna like it!!