South Lake Tahoe and adjoining Stateline boast a wide variety of dining options from casual to fine dining with white table cloths.

The best advice is simple: ask a local where they eat. A server at the Red Hut told us about Primo’s that we never would have found on our own—it’s in the back of a strip center. This time, we asked a local and she guided us to Izabella, located right on Lake Tahoe Boulevard (Highway 50) where the Pioneer Trail ends.

Smoked Gouda fried polenta

It was a Carrow’s and the owners of Scusa leased it, refurbished it to white table clothes and had a location within walking distance of the casino hotels. Our local said she lives closer to Scusa, but drives to Izabella because they like it better. We agree. We enjoyed a fine meal at Izabella.

The dining room has plenty of space to allow for social distancing and the booths date to the Carrow’s days. Instead of extending the booths vertically with plastic, the owners used wood panels that patrons loved. The booths now have an additional level of privacy with the high backs that will remain.

We started with two appetizers—fried calamari with two dipping sauces and smoked Gouda fried polenta topped with goat cheese or lemon butter or chunky marinara. The calamari was very lightly breaded and the Asian-style dipping sauce was a nice alternative to the marinara sauce. It blended a sweet chili sauce with vinegar. We’d definitely order this again.

The same goes for the fried polenta. The four pieces with three different toppings were ideal to share and perfectly executed. Appetizers range from $10 to $18.

Charred Romaine with blue cheese

The Caesar’s salad was as expected, but another salad options was more interesting: a grilled heart of Romaine topped with pancetta, baby tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. Delightful.

My daughter, a pasta fan, selected the Carbonara and reported it was perfectly prepared with tender peas, pancetta and Bucatini pasta.

My bride enjoyed a chef’s special, ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms served in a creamy garlic and butter sauce. The four large raviolis encouraged bringing some home to preserve room for dessert.

Huge portion of lasagna

I opted for the lasagna and took half home for lunch the next day. It was a huge portion, filling virtually the entire soup bowl. Not only was it large enough to serve two, it mixed Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses with Italian sausage in the classic tomato sauce. Rich and delicious and eliminated any chance I would order desert.

Pasta entrees generally were around $20, while other entrees were priced at $35.

The ladies went for a vanilla crème brulee that was topped with the well-executed sugar glaze. It was a rich and creamy version that that would be ordered again.

Creme brulee

That summed up the meal—definitely a place to return to. During busy times, reservations are highly recommended.

By Tim Hunt