Sundays at our Nana’s house were special days. It began when we entered Nana’s house and the smell of the ‘gravy’ simmering on the stove would greet us at the door. Nana would fly out of the kitchen to pinch our cheeks, give us hugs, and lead us to the table full of food saying “mangia, mangia”. Sundays with Nana were days where everything seemed to stop for family and friends; everything except for pasta. Aunts, uncles and cousins would trickle into Nana’s house throughout the day to take their places at the table. The day never seemed to end as we would sit for hours sharing the food and laughter with one another. Although the day would begin and end with food, it was the time with family that really made the day special. It is our hope and passion at Bella Monica to recreate those long Sundays at Nana’s.
Since 2000, when chef/owner Corbett Monica and his wife Julie opened the doors to this neighborhood trattoria, Bella Monica has become an extension of Nana’s table. It is a place where guests become family at our tables and enjoy Nana’s recipes. Keeping true to tradition, we use only imported San Marzano tomatoes and the freshest ingredients just like Nana would.
Being in the food industry, we had heard of gluten-free diets and Celiac’s disease but where not aware of the scope and impact it had on people. Then in 2004 a friend of our family who happen to be a professor at UNC Chapel Hill’s Keenan Flagler Business School suggested that we take a good look at the gluten-free food category. He was on the gluten-free diet and at the time was really disappointed in what the marketplace was offering. He suggested there could be a huge opportunity for a company who was focused on quality and great taste.
Flash forward to the spring of 2008 when another friend and veteran of the baking industry suggested we try some pizzas crusts made from a particular type of gluten-free flour. We made up some pizzas using these crusts, took one bite and knew instantly we had something special. Crisp, great taste profile and it looked like a real pizza – not a rice cracker with pizza toppings on it. Experimenting with different topping combinations and packaging design started immediately and by January of 2009 we were selling to retailers up and down the east coast. In addition, we invented a gluten-free menu for Bella Monica Italian Restaurant and put in place a service system that makes sure guests feel comfortable that they will not be “gluten-bombed” when they dine with us.
Throughout we discovered just how much of an impact our food was having not only on peoples’ stomachs but their hearts. Positive reviews continue to pour in from all over the Internet via blogs, emails and phone calls. Today our mission is clear. Make delicious gluten free pizza products that can be shared by those on or off a gluten free diet. Like our Nana said: “Everyone to the table. Mangia! Mangia!”