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The Art of Food

February 27, 2009


I love to entertain. But, several people close to me have made mention that I sometimes bite off more than I can chew in the preparation department. Meaning, I take on too much from scratch and turn into Chris Farley’s Gap girl screaming, “lay off me, I’m starving!” about half an hour before guests arrive.

Needless to say, it’s always a good thing when I stumble across something to help me out with the hosting duties that isn’t just step one – open the box, step two – dump the box contents into a bowl. That’s why I adore Bella Cucina products. From herb infused olive oils to pastas, sauces and even sweets, Bella Cucina Founder & CEO Alisa Barry takes easy entertaining to a whole new level. But, no fear – she doesn’t skimp on quality, taste, or the appearance of you being an amazing hostess.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alisa. Here’s the Q & A.
danapop (dp) When did you officially launch Bella Cucina? How did it start?

Bella Cucina Bella Cucina started in 1993 as a traveling lunch box.  I made a seasonal selection of sandwiches, salads, Focaccia and death by chocolate cookies each day, packed it up in a basket and headed to town. I sold at neighborhood hair salons, art galleries, antique shops and retail stores. Shortly thereafter, I opened Bella Cucina Café & Catering.  My customers were asking for the recipes, so I bottled up some of the favorite recipes. Little did I expect to create a company out of that idea! Bella Cucina Artful Food was born in 1994…14 years later, we are an award-winning artisan producer of Artful Food & Gifts selling to retail stores throughout the world.  Our flagship store in Virginia Highlands features a full selection of our product line, including some items not on the market anywhere else.

dp How did you get interested in food? And specifically with Italian foods?

Bella Cucina My mom tells the story that I was always in the kitchen. Stirring, peeling, licking the beater after mashing the potatoes or mixing the brownies.  While in college, I studied a year abroad in Madrid, Spain. I loved the art of food the Europeans have mastered so deliciously well.  I knew then and there that I wanted a life in food.  While I lived in California, I dated an Italian. He took me to Italy and I fell in love! With the food, the people, and the culture. It is all so casual and yet, “Bella figura” beautiful.

dp What’s your favorite product in the Bella Cucina line?

Bella Cucina I use my Aromatic Savory Salts everyday. I have them lined up next to my stove in our Casa Collezione teardrop condiment dishes on a platter. A pinch in this , a pinch in that. We just introduced Porcini & Parsley salt that I am experimenting.

dp What do you think your products offer people?

Bella Cucina I believe that food is the easiest, most accessible way to enhance your life everyday. Bella Cucina is not only about what you eat, but also how  you eat. It is the experience of the beautiful packaging – the labels, the hangtags, the jars from Italy, the hand-tied ribbon, and then once you open a jar, you can eat it right away or you can use it as an ingredient in other dishes. Bella Cucina is more about the art of food than mere eating.  With the pace of life, this is one way you can slow down everyday and enjoy a simple luxury that is oh, so good. And good for you – no preservatives, all natural.

dp What culinary trends do you predict for 2009?

Bella Cucina I am not big on trends, but I know what I love. I think people will be spending more time at home, eating around the table and entertaining with friends.  I look forward to that more in my own life.

dp What is your favorite food memory?

Bella Cucina Sitting on a beach in Mexico when I was in the fifth grade and watching the locals roast oysters over the hot coals in the sand.  Cool beers nearby. I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until I am an adult so I can create this experience in my own life.”

dp What inspires you? Meaning where do you find your inspiration to create?

Bella Cucina
I find inspiration in the ingredients I see, taste and feel. I love to travel and it fuels me with new ideas and tastes.

dp I love the Bella Cucina tagline of artful food…do you think in today’s modern society we’ve lost touch a bit with that art of eating, cooking, and being?

Bella Cucina Yes. But as I mentioned earlier, I think we are going to see that changing. I long for the meals at the farm table, like Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher describe in their eponymous books about food.

dp Outside of Atlanta, where can someone find Bella Cucina products?

Bella Cucina We ship anywhere in the world.  Other key retailers sell some selection of our line. Whole Foods, Crate & Barrel. Seek out premiere lifestyle stores in your neighborhood . I hope they sell Bella Cucina, but if not, ask them!

dp What’s next for Bella Cucina?

Bella Cucina Expanding the lifestyle concept.  My new favorite product is actually a time tested favorite. It is the Tuscan Italian Grill.  Launched in 2009, Bella Cucina is the exclusive importer of this Alice Water’s favorite food tool. It is a slow food favorite. Hand-forged in Italy, the grill can be
used outdoors like a regular grill or indoors in a fireplace. Hardwood,
grilled goodness year round. Once you have grilled over hardwood, it is hard to go back. I have been using this grill for over 20 years myself and I have never owned a gas grill since.  Buon appetito!