Bella Piatti in downtown Birmingham is an intimate, upscale restaurant with a neighborhood feel that welcomes everyone from celebrities and out-of-town visitors to regulars who stop in nightly for an appetizer at the bar. It's a very social place, and owners Nino and Liz Cutraro spend most of their evenings greeting people, talking with customers, and making friends. Since the restaurant is located across from The Townsend Hotel, diners can take advantage of the hotel's valet service. From April through October, patio dining adds to the appeal of this unique establishment - but as charming as the patio is, the dramatic whimsy of the interior is not to be missed. A Jeff Fontana Designs creation, brick walls frame larger-than-life faces and oversized still-life details give the restaurant a feeling that's reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. Transparent mesh curtains made of stainless steel are hung strategically around a large central table and between the main room and the bar, effectively redefining the space. Soft lighting and sound panels on the ceiling create a cozy atmosphere in which conversation is possible before, during, and after a solidly good meal. The selections on the menu roll musically off the tongue, stimulating taste buds and appetites alike. The creation of Venetian-born executive chef Francesco Apollonia, the cuisine features authentic regional favorites like carpaccio di polipo (thinly sliced octopus with fennel), tagliatelle Bolognese (egg ribbon pasta with Bolognese meat sauce), and linguine con vongole (little neck clams in white wine or tomato sauce). In addition to the pastas, an array of meat entrees is available, ranging from filet to lamb, veal, and quail. Swordfish, salmon, and a catch of the day are available for lighter fare. For dessert, there's tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake, and the enticing affogato - vanilla bean gelato smothered in hot espresso and amaretto. Bella Piatti (Italian for 'beautiful plates') serves lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11 to 3; and dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Be sure to make a reservation, especially if you're dining after 7 - unless you don't mind waiting in a long line! Buon appetito.