Wednesday, July 18, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Ciao, bella! Pizzeria Bello Forno is a welcome addition to Orcutt


At Bello Forno in the bright lights and with laughter coming from inside, it feels as refreshing as the crisp night air. Summer is winding down, but there’s still a touch of mild heat as people make their way into the new eatery.

I instantly feel some kind of connection. The decor, the furniture, the large groups of people at one table drinking bottles of wine and sharing bites of pizza as the sunset dips in to light their faces—it’s all a strikingly familiar feeling.

The pizzas at Bello Forno include staples like Margherita and meat lovers as well as offerings such as prosciutto and pear. Prices for pizzas range between $13 and $17.

That’s because Bello Forno in Orcutt, which opened Aug. 31, has managed to capture the kind of casual chic vibe of a lot of beachside California eateries. The venue is elegant, but not intimidating.

What catches my eye immediately is the brick woodfire oven at the end of the bar. There’s a warm, smooth glow coming off of it that immediately cuts through some of the apprehension that this might be a fine-dining establishment unwelcoming to me in my jeans and T-shirt.

The wine and beer bar doubles as a work station for the pizza chefs; diners can sip bottles of local wines and watch them flip dough in the air. The decor is rustic and sleek; refurbished church pews serve as benches while bare bulb light fixtures illuminate the industrial elements featured through the space. There’s a distinct theme of repurposing throughout every element of Bella Forno, one that extends right down to the water served in reusable glass bottles.

The theme extends to the execution of the menu. Flatbread artisan woodfired pizza is a popular trend in communities like Orcutt, and the key to standing out is to tap into the familiarity diners are looking for and truly make it unique.

The venue serves nine different pizzas, each one created to hit on a different flavor profile yet remain cohesive with the rest of the menu. Bello Forno excels at creating a captivating menu; items immediately jump out for their inventiveness and delicous flavor combinations.

Desserts on the menu at Pizzeria Bello Forno include vanilla ice cream doused with a shot of espresso as well a chocolate rum cake topped with strawberries and a Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream.

I indulged in sampling two different kinds. I tried the pears and parma prosciutto, which is not an unfamiliar flavor combination (the saltiness of prosciutto pairs well with fresh fruits like pears and melons). It’s topped with a combination of flavorful cheeses and it works well overall. Prosciutto is a finicky meat; if you overcook it, it can taste tough and gamey. It takes a special finesse to get the flavor just right without leaving it in the oven too long.

I also had the tart cherries and sausage pizza, topped with fresh arugula. The pizza includes goat cheese, mozzarella, fennel sausage, and cherries. This is a really special bite of food. The richness of the goat cheese against the fattiness of the meat, the tartness of the cherries cutting through the bold taste of the fennel sausage—it’s a truly great pizza. I found myself wanting more cherries or a little bit of cherry reduction to drizzle on the arugula because it was a perfect addition of flavor.

Some of the other intriguing standouts on the menu include the North Beach, with a house-made pesto, roasted plum tomatoes, and pine nuts. There’s also the salumi pizza, topped with blue cheese, mozarella, carmelized onions, and of course, salumi, an Italian deli meat made from pork.

One of the things that’s really hard about getting flatbread pizza right is making the dough correctly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at a beautiful slice of flatbread pizza only to have it be ruined by a soggy or dry crust. It has to be just the right thickness and consistency when it hits the oven, or you may as well put all your artisan meats and cheese on a cereal box top and eat that. Bello Forno escapes this problem by nailing the crust—I could eat every bite of my pizza without losing the original texture, and that makes all the difference.

Bello Forno also offers a few types of salads, but why do that when you can eat dessert? The dessert menu includes Italian fruit parfait made with orange-zested mascarpone whipped cream, and affogato, vanilla ice cream sauced with a shot of espresso.

Pizzeria Bello Forno is now open at 119 E. Clark, Orcutt. More info: 863-6321,, or at their Facebook page.

But I went straight for the chocolate rum espresso cake. What’s great about Bello Forno is you can eat what looks like a lot (and sample different bites and flavors) without feeling stuffed, because the flatbread and the ingredients are very light and fresh.

This cake is heaven. It’s moist all the way through, and the Grand Marnier whipped cream is a nice complement to the richness of the chocolate.

If you’re going with a big party I would definitely call ahead. It’s a small venue and it was packed when we were there on a Tuesday night.

But also remember this is an intimate Italian eatery, where part of the joy is sitting next to people you don’t know and striking up small talk over wine. Cent’Anni!

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is as sweet as a bowl of cherries. Sometimes. Contact her at


2016 Santa Maria Valley pinot blanc from Nagy Wines' tasting room in Orcutt.

• Speaking of Bello Forno, they sell Nagy Wines which has a tasting room in Orcutt. I had a bottle of the 2016 Santa Maria Valley pinot blanc (pictured) and it was delicious. It’s a very flavorful wine that paired great with both the lighter fare and the heavy chocolate cake I had. Nagy Wines is located at 145 S. Gray St., No. 103, Orcutt.

• Here’s a new and fun product to test out. California Wine Slush out of Santa Ynez is making wine slushie mixes. For about $10, you can get a pretty decent sized bag of their flavor mix; all you have to do is mix it with ice, wine, or your favorite liqueur. Check out their products, such as mango peach wine slush and sangria slush, at

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