Sitting at the corner of El Dorado Street and East Weber Avenue in the landmark Hotel Stockton, BellaVista Cucina Italiana is Chef Rima Barkett’s new venture bringing fine Italian dining with authentic northern Italian flair to Stockton’s downtown waterfront.
Barkett, who grew up in Tuscany and came to the U.S. in 1993, previously owned Café Luna on North Sutter Street for four years before closing in 2006 to move with her husband and daughter to Rome to spend a few years working on the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
“That restaurant was the love of my life,” Barkett said. “Customers can expect BellaVista to be bigger and better.”
After returning, Barkett wanted to get back into the restaurant life where she took advantage of the historic building’s renovation and the need for a fine dining spot that had once been French 25 and Paragary’s.
“It’s a positive challenge and beneficial to downtown Stockton,” Barkett, a Stockton resident, said. “If I live here I need to make Stockton the best it can be.”
Barkett said she learned cooking in her mother’s kitchen where she developed the love of feeding people and sharing her amazing talent for cooking delicious, simple meals that bring people together.
“The way I give love is giving food,” Barkett said. “That’s what I do, it’s in my blood.”
Though she’s never completed a culinary academy, Barkett has taken extensive training courses through Cordon Bleu in Florence, Gambero Rosso in Rome, and locally at the esteemed Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa.
“Nobody ever gave me a piece of paper that says I can cook,” Barkett quipped. “Cooking techniques are fluid and constantly evolving with new ideas. I like to stay current.”
Last year she spent the summer in La Spezia, Italy learning techniques from Chef Silvia Cardelli at L’Osteria della Corte.
In return, Barkett sponsors Italian chefs at her new establishment adding to the Italian authenticity of her ristorante.
“Our food is not ‘Americanized’,” Barkett said. “There’s nothing wrong with ‘Americanized’ Italian food, but here we’re going to be Italian food from Italy.”
Barkett said one of the special menu items is her lasagna from Northern Italy.
Unlike many lasagnas made with southern recipes, the BellaVista lasagna features a meat sauce made with Béchamel sauce instead of ricotta.
Another special is the Mezze Maniche in crema di Parmigiana, a half-rigatoni pasta with Parmesan fondue, bacon bits and a sous-vide soft egg.
The BellaVista Saltimbocca alla Romma features veal scaloppini, Prosciutto and sage with seasoned vegetables.
Barkett said a popular appetizer is her Tower of Eggplant and Burrata of stacked baked eggplant slices, Pomodoro sauce, Burrata cheese, topped with extra-virgin olive oil.
“I try to work with local suppliers for everything … unless it comes from Italy,” Barkett said.
In addition to a wine list that offers not only many local wines and wines from Italy, the BellaVista bar specializes in handcrafted and traditional cocktails.
“We want to bring back the craft of true bartending and we’re taking care of our guests,” said bar manager Drew Reyes, a 14-year vet of the beverage industry. “What we also like to do is develop cocktails that play to people’s palates.”
To take advantage of the remarkable facility as weather gets warmer, Barkett said the upstairs “Terrace at BellaVista” will be offering an Aperitivo.
Aperitivo is northern Italy’s version of happy hour, only instead of half-priced beers and a sketchy taco bar like some restaurants, BellaVista will be offering its signature drinks, wine and complimentary appetizer plates for patrons to enjoy as they watch the sun set over the Weber Channel on warm summer nights.
“BellaVista is a beautiful place,” Barkett said. “The food is delicious, and the service is impeccable which makes for a great ambiance.”BellaVista Cucina Italiana
110 N. El Dorado St.
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.