J. Bella's Ristaurante

Review by Salem Man
(now closed)
Have you been to downtown Independence lately? It's just across the river if you take the bridge from River Rd. S. There's a small strip of businesses on Main St. across from Polk Marine Park that have developed into a thriving commercial sector for the small town. It's not really that far of a drive if you live in Salem and it's a breath of fresh country air as you head past farms along the Willamette River on the narrow highway heading south.
In the corner of one of the old brick buildings is a cozy Italian restaurant called J. Bella's Ristaurante. We were sold on eating here when we walked by the large glass windows and saw plenty of seating in a spacious dining room. It's not terribly fancy but it does feel like you are going to get a high quality meal. Pasta prices on the menu range from $13 to $18 including a salad and bread. What caught my eye was the Grandma's Meatballs served over spaghetti. Grandma always makes the best. My kid's know that too, so they ordered the same from the kids menu.
Unfortunately, this is where the nice dinner out took a turn in the wrong direction. Five minutes after I ordered, the server came back and told me that they only had two meatballs left. Just enough for my kids to each have one or for my dinner. I decided to change my order to the Baked Chicken Manicotti. While I sat and wondered why they wouldn't have enough meatballs for a sparsely filled dining room, I enjoyed the nice basket of bread sticks with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. After eating salads, and a bit of a wait, my manicotti plate came out first from the kitchen. Then a bit more waiting for the rest of my family's entrees to come out of the kitchen. I guess I kind of expected the meatball dinners to be the quicker to prepare. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine not be served everyone's dinner at one time. They don't need to get to the table at exactly the same moment, but the kitchen should have
everyone's meal done before the server puts a plate in front of a customer. The manicotti was stringy and dry and the small portion of veggies, which were alright, didn't make up for the disappointing cheese filled pasta.
J. Bella's has potential to be a comfortable casual dining experience at reasonable prices, it's unfortunate that we had the experience that we did. Don't let this review discourage you from crossing the river into Independence. There are other good restaurants along that street and a nice riverfront park for the family to enjoy.


tracylee said...

Wow, that's too bad!
A friend from Independence was just last night raving about what a great place this is for meetings. She loves the back room and is planning a breakfast meeting there soon.

I haven't been yet, but I'm feeling forwarned!

Christina said...

We went and had a HORRIBLE experience. My husband ordered spaghetti and they gave him Fettuccine with red sauce! Nobody enjoyed their food, and the service took FOR-EVERRRRR! I asked the waitress what the problem was as I'd been there previously and it was TO DIE FOR, she said the original chef had some sort of surgery and wasn't coming back, this was a new 'chef'. I use the term loosely, as I just don't understand how one can order spaghetti and be served Fettuccine.

I was really sorry about it because the location is great, the ambiance is great, but the food was HORRIBLE.

Mike and Mindy Roth said...

When did you go? We drove through Independence a few weeks ago and I was sure that J. Bella's was no longer there. Maybe we looked at the wrong corner building. We ate there once about two years ago and our experience sounded about the same to yours. Still, it was a nice little dining experience for a decent price and "out of town".

Anonymous said...

that is really too bad! and Christina said they got a new chef.... i havent been out there in about a year probably, but my family and i like this as a great middle meeting place between them (dallas) and us (south salem). we like to meet here for breakfast, which always left us stuffed to the gills with goodness. this makes me wonder if the goodness has gone! :(

KandN said...

The first thing I noticed when we walked by (and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get past it), were the large, painted letters spelling out "fine dinning" on their windows. I know what dining is, but I'm not sure what dinning means.

Christina said...

Too funny KandN, that in an of itself should stand as the first big red flag.

I should preface the initial time we went and had a wonderful experience was probably a year and a half or so ago. It's been quite a while, but it certainly left a great impression, the food was great, the ambiance was great, service was great.

So much so that we took some other friends there several months after that. This is the experience I'd posted about above, it was just horrible.

I was surprised to find that indeed it was still open when I saw this review. I hope they are able to turn things around, it's a great little location.

AMY said...


We were there 2-3 weeks ago on Saturday for lunch and had a great experience. See my rundown at http://dogsanddragonflies.blogspot.com/ ; direct link is http://tinyurl.com/cwfb6n .

A friend who lives in Independence was aghast when I told him we went; seems he's heard of bad reports as well, such that he didn't even bother to try it out.

I had the manicotti; that day it was fantastic.

One of the worst things a restaurant can be is inconsistent!

Kim said...

I think it is hit or miss at J. Bella's. I went with my family and although my meal was satisfactory at best (chicken Parmesan), my husband's was wonderful as were my Aunt & Uncle's meal. It is a very neat place and if you order the right thing you will be very satisfied. It is a good step in the right direction for Independence.

Anonymous said...

Just got done with dinner here, and I wish I would have read these comments sooner. The only reason we went here is because the Pink Cafe is closed on Mon and Tues (forgot that). The meal at j Bella's was not good at all, esp for the price! Yes, it is a nice place, but my wifes baked manicotti(sp) tasted and looked like a Stauffers entry, the salads were lacking appeal, the bread they brought out was just so-so. Very disappointing and we wont go back. We'll just head to the Pink Cafe instead