Bella’s Pizzeria, Smyrna GA

It’s always a little discouraging when a place that you know to be capable of giving you a good meal lets you down. We don’t eat at Bella’s very often – perhaps eight or nine times over the years – but it has a deserved reputation for giving you a perfectly good New York-style pie. It’s certainly nowhere near the best in the region, and not in my top five, but I’ve always felt it to be a reliable place.

It’s a sports bar, basically. I’m not sure how much of its loud, late-evening hoopla was designed and how much evolved from answering customer requests for things to do, but over time they’ve introduced Team Trivia and other games, and usually have live music – blues and classic rock covers, mainly – on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a very fun neighborhood pizza place. The pie’s usually pretty good, and you can complement it with a very decent side salad with a delicious house dressing or some garlic knots which put most of their rivals to shame, and they offer Boylan’s sodas by the bottle. It’s a good place.

This past week, we had the first subpar meal we’ve ever had at Bella’s. We had a veggie pie and a stuffed pie with meatballs and ham, and neither was worth writing home about. They were certainly better than what Domino’s might like to deliver, but not at all like what I have had in the past. The dough didn’t taste right, and the sauce seemed bland and canned. I thought the cheese was fine, and the veggie toppings were all quite good, but it just felt like it was made without attention to detail. It didn’t have any spark.

When this happens with pizza, it’s hugely aggravating because you’re sharing with the group. Marie, my daughter and I met Neal here and we could all only agree that the food was “all right.” Sadly, the blow to the wallet seems a lot harsher when your meal isn’t a standout. Bella’s seems a little pricier than most of its competitors anyway, but they do offer coupons which aren’t hard to find. In fact, we got our coupon from my folks, who eat here all the time. My dad is often found shopping in that strip mall, and he loves Bella’s, but he’s also honest about their inconsistency. Most of the time, they’re pretty good, once in a while they are outstanding, and once in a very long while, they’re bland and disappointing.

I’ve mentioned before that 2004 was something of a mistake-filled year for me. The very last time one of those mistakes and I had supper together, I brought her and her daughter here. The pizza that night was completely amazing, although I think that the girl I was seeing was a little too distracted by her daughter’s really awful conduct that night to notice. I’m willing to cut Bella’s a little slack, because I know first-hand that they can do better. That and those garlic knots will knock you out.