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Fare on the fairway at La Bella Fonte

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ADAMS —La Bella Fonte — Italian for “the beautiful source” — has opened at the Adams Country Club. The grand opening took place April 24.

It’s a lovely setting. Huge plate glass windows offer a panoramic view of the lush golf course. The dining room is tastefully decorated with a Tuscan flair. White linen tablecloths give the space a formal feeling.

There’s a separate patio for al fresco dining and a private room for members to enjoy. The bar, accessible to all, is in a hallway of sorts, overlooking the dining room and the course beyond. There’s a pub menu available here with appetizers and salads from the main menu plus burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.

Our bartender was polite and had adequate choices — a half-dozen beers on tap (Hennepin, 1812, Ubu, Yuengling, Labatt Blue and Miller Lite) plus all the usual bottled suspects, a nice assortment of white wines visible in a glass-front wine cooler as well as prestige reds on display behind the bar next to all the popular liquors.

We got a chance to look over the menu while at the bar. Chef/owner Chris Arquiett is calling his restaurant an Italian steakhouse. There’s a pretty good selection of steaks and chops — filet mignon, Delmonico, sirloin, pork chops and lamb chops. For seafood there’s shrimp, scallops, salmon and tilapia.

And of course those traditional steakhouse sides: roasted potatoes, garlic smashed potatoes, Tuscan steak fries, zucchini and roasted peppers, garlic spinach, roasted broccoli and crimini mushrooms.

Pasta dishes are limited to chicken or veal parmigiana, stuffed eggplant and spaghetti with meatballs or house-made sausage. There’s also a limited children’s menu.

We could have ordered each of the appealing appetizers, eight in all, but went with polenta con fungi ($8.99), oxtail ragu ($9.99), beer mussels ($11.99) and Dante’s scampi ($8.99).

The polenta was a bit on the dry side rather than creamy, but the wild mushrooms, sautéed in butter, were mighty fine. There was preserved lemon mascarpone cheese in there somewhere, but it was definitely understated.

Oxtail ragu was to be served over potato gnocchi with white truffle oil and shaved pecorino. The tender, slow-cooked meat was quite tasty, moistened in its own reduction along with a splash of truffle oil, but came over homemade tagliatelli rather than gnocchi.

Not a problem. Seems like someone in the kitchen would have told our server that pasta was being substituted that evening. And it would have saved our server from having to pronounce gnocchi (her ga-NOCK-ee should have been NYOH-kee).

But more on our service nightmare later.

The mussels were steamed in beer, rather than wine, and sprinkled with blue cheese, chopped scallions and sun-dried tomatoes after being plated.

The mussels were plentiful. The blue cheese made its way down into the beer and mussel juice at the bottom of the bowl, producing a yummy broth to be mopped up with the bread on the table (a flat, ciabatta-looking loaf we suspected was made from pizza dough).

Perhaps our favorite appetizer was Dante’s scampi. A good number of medium-sized shrimp were served in a pool of citrus-chili vinaigrette, just spicy enough so you knew about it, but not enough to be offensive. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, popping as you chewed into them. The grilled flavor worked great with the citrus vinaigrette.

Salads do not come with entrees, but there are six available as add-ons, if you choose. We tried “the Wedge” ($5.99), a nostalgic throwback to fine dining in the ’50s — a simple wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with creamy blue cheese dressing and diced red onion.

It also comes standard with chopped tomatoes and crumbled bacon, but Chris’s preparation simply garnished the plate with quartered Roma tomatoes and slices of applewood bacon cut in half and placed against the wedge of lettuce.

For entrees, we went right to the top and ordered the 8-ounce gorgonzola-encrusted filet mignon ($28.99), spring lamb loin chops ($16.99), the scallops (“Pettine Candito,” $23.99) and the tilapia (“San Pietro Pesce,” $15.99).

The appetizers had taken what seemed like forever to come out, but not a problem for us. After waiting 10 minutes for our entrees, however, our waitress came by to inform us that they were out of the filet mignon, and would I want to sub one of the other steaks.

I quickly asked the preparation of the sirloin and the Delmonico. As expected, she told me they’re both the same, done with garlic butter. I knew better, and grabbed a menu to check. Two different preparations.

So I went with my original second choice, “Stuffed Chicken Gondola” ($15.99) Of course, that took another 10 minutes to cook, delaying the entrees even further.

Chris, the chef/owner was cruising the dining room and the bar, chatting with patrons, and now made his way over to us. His first question, naturally, was, “How is everything?” And our cool response was, “The food is good …”

And perhaps reading between the lines, he sensed something, and offered to buy the table a round of drinks. We graciously accepted, and after a while, our server came by to take our order.

They offer house wines ($5 a glass) from a reputable vineyard in California, Salmon Creek. So my friends each ordered a glass, and I ordered my favorite Zinfandel, rarely seen by the glass, Rancho Zabacho, but said I’d like it with my dinner.

Our uninformed waitress had no problem with Chardonnay and Cabernet, but Rancho Zabacho threw her for a loop. She mumbled something about ranch dressing or taco something, and I apologized for not speaking clearly (even though I was) and explained exactly which wine I wanted.

After another noticeable wait, our wine was delivered by the bartender. After asking who got what, the three house wines were set in place. She looked at me and said, “Didn’t you order anything?” I told her our server was on top of it, even though I knew she probably wasn’t.

It was getting dark outside and the lights in the dining room were seeming a lot brighter, and finally, the entrees arrived.

The lamb chops were good, loin chops about 3 inches around, and there were three of them. They’re marinated with rosemary, which was apparent, splashed with a Chianti-mint reduction that was not as apparent — just a hint of mint, and that’s a good thing as far as we were concerned.

The lamb was done medium to medium well. We were never asked for our temperature preference.

The generous portion of lamb came with garlic smashed potatoes and garlic bread pudding, neither overly powered with garlic. Again, a good thing. And we were pretty sure the mashed potatoes were the real deal.

The tilapia was lightly battered, served with a lemon-wine sauce along with al dente spaghetti tossed with spinach, little bits of tomatoes and pine nuts. This was a delicate dish, nothing too overpowering to detract from the mild-tasting fish.

My stuffed chicken breast, in contrast, was in-your-face with bold flavors, a single breast oozing with ricotta cheese, red peppers, artichoke hearts and doused with a Parmesan-pesto sauce that pooled around the chicken.

Now for the “Pettine Candito” — the candied “jumbo diver” scallops. A conundrum that matched the rest of the evening.

We asked our waitress exactly how the scallops were candied. “They’re caramelized,” she replied. OK, everyone at the table knows how to cook, and that didn’t make much sense to us.

When the dish arrived, there were a modest number of modest-sized scallops (far from jumbo), drizzled with some thin lines of balsamic glaze, served around tomato-basil-gongonzola risotto. The risotto was decent, but the scallops, for being some kind of big deal, were a bit rubbery and seemingly overcooked.

Chris did another walk-by, and we asked him about the scallops. “They’re U-10 (meaning there are under 10 to a pound) dry scallops (meaning they’re not brined in a sodium solution that adds to their weight) so they won’t shrink when cooked.”

So I said, “U-10s? They look more like 10-20s to me.” He replied, “That’s because you asked to have them cooked medium-well. We recommend medium-rare.”

Hold me back. First of all, no one asked us how we’d like our scallops done, and secondly, if you’re suggesting they shrank because they were cooked too long, that’s the reason you’re using dry scallops — SO THEY WON’T SHRINK!

Then the question of what is a diver scallop. Fifteen years ago, they were a big deal for a short period of time. It’s a sea scallop that has been hand-picked by a scuba diver in pristine waters at great depths. Give me a break. The public didn’t buy it then, and I’m not buying it now.

Hey, I’m all about the best ingredients. But we’ve had bigger and better scallops than these just recently, so go away with that diver scallop hogwash.

We sampled three desserts, all home runs.

Sicilian ricotta cheesecake ($5.99) was made with fresh lemon curd. This was an outstanding dessert, fresh and light, the lemon a clean, refreshing taste following a full meal.

Hazelnut panna cotta ($5.99). Panna cotta is Italian for “cooked cream.” It was a delicious disc of silky custard, creamy as can be, accented with lines of caramel painted on the plate.

The award-winner was the warm banana-walnut bread pudding ($4.99), a great combination of flavors and textures, accented with the same great caramel sauce that came under the panna cotta.

The bill arrived at the table reflecting a gracious 10 percent discount from Chris. But we weren’t out of there yet.

The filet mignon ($28.99) was still on the bill. Our server neglected to swap it out for the stuffed chicken ($15.99). We brought this to her attention and another 10 minutes passed before she returned.

I scanned the bill quickly. She took the filet off and neglected to replace it with the chicken dish. Another 10 minutes. …

Finally the bill is presented and I look it over carefully. The complimentary round of drinks promised by the owner was still on there — four glasses of wine totaling $21. At this point, we just wanted to get out of the place (it was past 9 o’clock; we’d sat down at 6:30), so we paid up and left.

The evening at La Bella Fonte cost $148.05 before tip. We left the Adams Country Club feeling confused and not totally satisfied.

The waitress was a constant distraction. She had worked there from day one, over a month, and didn’t have a clue about the food, how it was prepared or how to pronounce it. We asked her what panna cotta was. She described the texture as “sort of Jello.” When serving the appetizers, she had no idea who got what. Same with the entrees.

The table was never cleared properly. We even had to snatch some replacement dishes from the table next to us. She never offered a wine list — we had to ask.

Considering that the dining room was not swamped (she might have had four tables to deal with, at most), she could have spent the down time familiarizing herself with the menu, rather than watching TV in the bar area.

On the other hand, Chris is the owner of the business and should be able to train his staff properly. It seems he’s got the kitchen pretty well under control, affording him the time to schmooze out front. But even that got overbearing after a while. For a guy originally from the north country, he should be a little more discreet with his comments about the local labor pool.

Knowing how to cook doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to run a business. And you’re stooping pretty low when you have to ask your “friends” on Facebook for some help “upping the fan count for La Bella Fonte.”

We give La Bella Fonte four forks (excellent) for the food, two forks (fair) for the service. Overall, three forks (good) for La Bella Fonte.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.

La Bella Fonte

at the Adams Country Club

10700 U.S. Route 11

Adams, N.Y.

232-4842

www.labellafonte.com

A new Italian steakhouse at the Adams Country Club

HOURS: Dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

APPETIZER PICKS: Dante’s scampi, beer mussels

ENTRÉE PICKS: Stuffed chicken gondola, spring lamb loin chops, San Pietro Pesce

DESSERT PICKS: Hazelnut panna cotta, warm banana-walnut bread pudding

RATING: 3 FORKS

Four forks for the food; two forks for the service. Overall, three forks for La Bella Fonte.

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