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Friday, June 17, 2011

Club Isabella Makes its Dramatic Encore

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

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For 25 years, Club Isabella was the place to go in University Circle for matchless jazz and food. That all ended in 2007 when University Hospitals razed the legendary club to make way for a new hospital. Understandably, fans were heartbroken.

One thing that will help ease the pain is a visit to the brand new Club Isabella, which opened in early June. Located in the former Goose Acres Music on Cornell Road in Little Italy, the new home is breathtaking, with blacked-out cathedral ceilings, marble-inlaid tables, and an open floor plan that transitions seamlessly from courtyard to bar to dining room. Contemporary but warm, classy but fun as hell, the new digs will have old fans wondering what they ever saw in the old haunt.

Run by Fabio Mota, former chef at Johnny's, and Club Isabella's final owner, the restaurant features a smashing and eclectic menu loaded with original tastes. We went nuts over a tuna tartar with deep-fried egg and toast ($11). Ground pork and black bean sauce give a dish of steamed clams ($9) an Asian flair. Our al dente angel hair pasta dish ($15) was packed with succulent crab meat offset by crisp ham. Smoked bacon and a creamy sauce made a monkfish dish eat like a steak. And don't get us started on the scallops and pork belly dish. Fuhgeddaboudit.

Although there is not nightly live jazz, a wonderful soundtrack will be augmented by occasional live performances, says management.

Along with the recently opened Washington Place Bistro, Club Isabella 2.0 is providing a fresh, modern boost to Little Italy's dining scene.

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