Betta's Italian Oven is located at 3764 Montgomery Road in Norwood. When you first step inside, you get the sense that you've been transported to the very birthplace of pizza: Naples, Italy.
That's probably not a coincidence: owner Will DeLuca is the nephew of the same DeLuca family who own Sorrento's Pizza a mile or so up the street. They can trace their ancestry all the way back to the Mother Country, to a little town called Pietramelara, just an hour north of Naples. Make no mistake: pizza is in their blood.
An especially popular hang-out for nearby Xavier students, Betta's is one of our default Italian restaurants in Cincinnati. The fact that my girlfriend's first and last name end in a vowel and she can trace her line back to Sicily, coupled with the fact that we've made several trips to Italy over the years, might clue you in on what sort of standards we set when it comes to Italian food.
Betta's is not high-end Italian. It's food served simply, fresh, with a down-home feel. On the menu are hearty pastas, sandwiches, chicken, fish and an impressive line of desserts complimenting their signature, wood-fired pizzas.
When the girlfriend and I get pizza at Betta's, we typically order the classic Margherita or the (very) spicy Pizza Diavolo, respectively. Tonight, we were in the mood for pasta.
We started off with an order of antipasti consisting of freshly-cured olives, artichokes, rolled meats and cheeses, pepperoncini, marinated mushrooms and fresh bread. The menu indicates it feeds two people, but when it arrived, it looked like it could easily accommodate four. And it was delicious.
For our entrees, I ordered the Eggplant Parmesan, a fried classic layered with eggplant, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, topped with tomato sauce and accompanied by a side of spaghetti and marinara sauce. My girlfriend ordered the Chicken Cacciatore, with generous chunks of chicken, mushrooms, onions and bell pepper simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce over spaghetti. Both entrees come with garlic bread.
The eggplant was plentiful, not the skimpy, thin, mostly-fried coating I've seen at other Italian restaurants. The breading seems almost minimized --you really get the flavor of the eggplant complimented by the crunchy texture. It was a lot of food; I only ate half of it before giving up and asking for a box (needed to save room for dessert!).
We were delighted to learn they had cannoli available this time. We asked our server how large they were, trying to establish whether one would be enough to split. After he'd approximated the size of about four inches with his hands, we both simultaneously responded with, "two, please."
The cannoli had a crunchy, sugar-powdered shell, filled with a creamy, chocolate chip-flecked ricotta filling. They were among the better tasting cannoli in town.
Betta's is one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Cincinnati, with great pizzas, delicious pastas and delectable desserts. If you're not heading to Naples anytime soon, give them a try for an authentic taste of Italian comfort food.
Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)