Aunt Bella's Restaurant has been a staple on the corner of Beech Knoll Avenue and Marathon Parkway for as long as I can remember. I have been walking past here every morning, at first to go to school at and now on my way to the Long Island Railroad station.
One of my earliest memories of dining here is back in 1985. For my 10th birthday, my father took me and my friends to get pizza. Afterward, we went to Movieworld in Douglaston Plaza. I still think there's no better way to follow up great pizza than with a classic 80s action hero flick.
Aunt Bella's Restaurant has a truly homey feel. The first instance of this is the entrance. You first open a storm door and then a front door — almost like coming into someone's house. This down-home feeling continues with the warm greetings and happy smiles you get from the hosts and waiters.
On our last visit, we walked in pretty early (around 4:30 p.m.) for dinner without making a reservation. But as early as we arrived, the place was almost full of diners. Since there is limited amount of tables, I would highly recommend making a reservation during prime dining times.
Upon being seated you are given a basket of warm fresh bread that I know is delivered every morning because I see the bags from the bakery waiting outside Aunt Bella's door on my way to the train.
Back at the table, we ordered without looking at the menu: eggplant parmigiana, linguini in clam sauce and penne alla vodka. Their menu is classic Italian-American including all kinds of parmigianas, baked zitis and raviolis.
Aunt Bella's also has pizza that they sell by the pie, or half pie. A friend of mine's family has been ordering their pizza every Friday night since the early 80s. For many years, I also have enjoyed their pizza, usually going for a meatball topping. The restaurant's pies are not as big as some other places but their delicious sauce and fresh ingredients make up for that.
Their service is swift and on point. All three dishes came out a few minutes after we ordered. The first thing I dug into was the eggplant parmigiana, prepared in layers, with cheese and tomato sauce on top of it. Personally, I like more cheese than they serve, but this dish was delicious.
Next, I had some of the penne alla vodka. Let me tell you: if you want to try the best vodka sauce around, then order this dish. The sauce is extremely rich and creamy. I have never tasted anything like this anywhere else. I give it two thumbs up and then some.
Last I had some of the linguini in clam sauce. This is my wife's favorite item to order here. In fact, she likes Aunt Bella's take on this classic so much she will not order linguini in clam sauce anywhere else.
All through our meal I felt like I was sitting in my own aunt's dining room. The hosts gave special attention to my son through our meal and he was smiling and playing along with them.
Aunt Bella's really has a lot to offer. Between the warm, hospitable service and delicious, home cooked meals, a visit here will be well rewarded.