Bella’s Cafe: Westville’s Daytime Destination

No matter what time of day, I love breakfast. Say “French toast” and I salivate. There was a lot of drooling when I visited Bella’s Cafe.

Opened in 2000 by chef Rose Foote, Bella’s has become the breakfast, lunch and brunch destination of Westville.

Foote comes honestly to modern comfort food. Her Greek grandfather and Italian grandmother ran diners a few blocks apart from each other in Bridgeport: Nick’s for her grandfather, Paula’s for her grandmother. Foote, born in Bridgeport and raised in Trumbull, spent her childhood helping in her grandmother’s diner and her parents’ Trumbull restaurant, Marie’s Sandwich Shop. Foote’s husband Jeffrey co-owns Bella, and son Joshua, age 10, carries on Rose’s tradition and helps out in Bella’s, busing and prepping.

As she grew up working in diners, she would say to herself, “I would never do this, I would never do what my mother does. It’s always work, work, work!” Yet she continued to to do just that for her family. When she was 25, her mother asked Foote to help her with a catering event. Suddenly, “I didn’t want to do anything else. Catering was extremely creative. The creativity is what pulled me in. I wanted more [than the diner], so much more, so when I started to do the catering,” she was hooked.

So hooked that at 26 she opened her own catering business in Newtown called Rose’s Distinctive Catering. Her food was featured at events throughout Fairfield and Litchfield counties. “We used to do antique fairs. We would set everything up, seasonal, decoratively, everyone was a prospective client.” After six years she closed her catering business, instead going to work at Zanghi, a classy Westport restaurant. While at Zanghi she traveled to Italy for culinary training.

Foote liked the New Haven restaurant scene. When she and a friend went to the old Perry’s Coffee House for cappucinos, she remarked “I’d love a place like this. And two years later it was mine.”

Bella’s Cafe offers breakfast, lunch and brunch. “The food is really eclectic, contemporary American,” says Foote, but with influences from her Italian and Greek heritage, a bit of Syrian from a brother-in-law, and French from the restaurants where she worked. She also admired South American and New Orleans cuisine, and so added those flavors into her dishes as well.

Bella’s Cafe squeezes in about 46, and it’s always bustling. “Lots of customers come from New Jersey and Boston, and meet here. We just get busier, busier and busier.”

“Bella” is the nickname she was given when she was young. When she would go to pick up pastries for her parents’ diner, the bakery owners would call out to her “Hey Bella, good morning!” For diners at Bella’s Cafe, it’s always a good morning.

Mara Lavitt

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Restaurant Website: http://bellascafect.com/

• The Detes: 898 Whalley Ave. New Haven. 203-387-7107. Open Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday. Breakfast 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., brunch Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

• Price Range: $3.25 for two eggs any style – $14.95 for some omelets and some specials.

• Style of Food: “European roots with a contemporary flair,” according to Bella’s.

• Favorite dishes: shrimp and grits, deep-fried burrito (“It’s to die for,’ says Rose), stuffed French toast (often with seasonal fruit)

• Drinks: coffees, teas, chais, juice with a flair, as well as Bellinis and sangria.

• Vegetarian/Gluten-free available: yes

• Outdoor seating: a few tables in front for folks to take their food outside

• Events: no

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