We waltzed into Isabella’s on a Saturday night at 7:30 and found the large restaurant swarming with frivolity. We followed a perky hostess as she led us through the crowd to a small table in the bar. The main dining room was buzzing. Several tables had been pulled together to accompany a big, multigenerational family, pink balloons bobbed above a six-top of young women, and romantic couples locked eyes and clinked glasses as if nobody else was around. The waiters we passed weren’t frazzled; they smiled and nodded “hello” as we passed. Once we were seated, a server approached us with a sincere greeting and noticed my friend and I were already perusing the wine list. He offered samples of any we’d like to try before ordering. Buoyed by the festive atmosphere and a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva from Castello di Monastero, our hopes soared. Our expectations were dashed when the entrées were simultaneously set before us. All three of us grimaced in unison as the stench of stinky fish from a plate of herbed trout pierced our olfactory sensors. As the only working person at the table, I took a bite and spit it into my napkin, fearing what might happen should I ingest it. Though the grilled pork tenderloin rolled with mixed olives and pancetta wasn’t as offensive as the trout, it was so dry, despite a pool of Marsala wine sauce, that it was difficult to chew. Thankfully, a generous portion of fresh pappardelle covered with thick beef, veal, and pork Bolognese sauce provided enough to pass around. Our server not only deleted the entrées from our bill, he surprised us with a plate of the creamiest caramel custard I have ever tasted. Sometimes just a sense of being cared for is all it takes to convince me to return and try again. Because I will.

For more information about Isabella's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar, visit our restaurant guide.

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