Homemade pasta, pizza and more in a casual setting that recalls an Italian bistro: That’s what Trattoria Bello, indeed a beautiful restaurant, has to offer. Words by Matt Surrusco; photography by Enric Català.

Hiroki Kitaura starts making fresh pasta every day at 11am. He winds a crank on a pasta maker, feeding the dough through the machine to craft long, flat strands of tagliatelle.

Like the dough for the pizza served at Kitaura’s Trattoria Bello, the dough for the pasta rests for hours overnight before being formed into ribbons, boiled and covered in one of more than half a dozen sauces.

Kitaura, the restaurant’s owner, says his preferred dishes are the margherita pizza and pasta bolognese, among the most traditional Italian favourites on the menu. But after working in Italian restaurants in his hometown of Osaka, Japan, for about five years, he also likes to experiment with tradition.

“I want to make something more,” says Kitaura, citing one of his creations on the menu, a Caprese bruschetta appetizer, which combines two Italian standards.

Another Italian classic with a pleasant twist is the meatballs starter (four for $2.75), which, rather than the usual mix of beef and pork, is made of ground chicken. The sweet tomato sauce, after simmering for hours with caramelized onions, is simply superb. Thankfully, there’s enough remaining to mop up with bread after finishing the ping-pong-ball-size polpettine.

Next, Bello’s tapas plate ($5) offered something for everyone: crispy rosemary potatoes, Japanese-style chicken ham with a dollop of thick, grainy mustard, savoury slices of vegetable-mushroom-bacon frittata with grana padano cheese, and a delicious caponata with a slight spicy kick. The latter left me wishing for a second helping of the saucy aubergine dish, which, like the frittata, potatoes and chicken ham, you can also order as a standalone appetizer.

Pasta lovers will appreciate the homemade tagliatelle, including the pasta bolognese ($4.50 for a medium plate, $5.50 for a large plate). The generous coating of sauce, with crumbles of ground beef, garlic, red wine, butter and grana padano, doesn’t overpower the pasta itself. On previous visits, the pesto with chicken, amatriciana and carbonara were also delicious.

The mushroom and prosciutto pizza ($7.95 for medium, $10.95 for large) was light on the tomato sauce and mozzarella, but heavy on the thinly cut slices of Italian Parma ham, Japanese Shimej mushroom, robust rocket, garlic and black pepper. The thin crust was tasty but outdone by the fresh toppings and variety of flavours – from the salty meat to spicy pepper.

With 13 other pizzas to choose from, other options are sure to please any pizza connoisseur.

For dessert, a glass of creamy, coffee-flavoured tiramisu and cup of espresso ($4) were a sweet and robust end of the meal. After one mouthful of the spongy, cocoa-powder-dusted cake, it was hard to put the spoon down.

Trattoria Bello has casual seating with wine bottles lining the walls and adding charm. Open for lunch and dinner, the Italian bistro is a delicious choice for a date or meal with friends.

17c Street 460, Phnom Penh.
Tel. 096 341 0936.
Open daily, from noon to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm.