For the 20th anniversary, Bella Fresca has brought customer favorites back to the menu for the same price they were at the time they were originally listed.
“We think it’s a cool idea for the 20th anniversary,” said Sanela Tomic, co-owner.
In 2000, Bella Fresca opened at 6307 Line Ave. in Shreveport. In 2008, Zoran and Sanela Tomic purchased the restaurant from its founder and former chef, David Bridges.
Currently, Chef Jason Kohler is the executive chef at Bella Fresca.
The idea of a throwback menu comes after ongoing requests by regular guests to reintroduce the dishes they remembered and loved from earlier years and menu versions. To diners’ delight, the Tomics are offering a good helping of those popular dishes through the month of February.
Even the husband-wife restaurateur team are excited to see the return of items they ate when they were mere patrons of the establishment.
Sanela Tomic recalls her ordering her go-to appetizer and entrée.
“We’d come for the calamari and move on to my favorite which was this amazing veal dish,” she said. “It was served on top of a bed of fresh-made pasta in cream sauce with crab meat and topped off with lemon capers in a butter sauce… It was a perfect complement to the veal and the pasta. I would indulge in that dish. It was my favorite.”
Another highly requested entrée is the panko-crusted snapper, which happens to be one of Zoran Tomic’s must-haves. The panko-crusted snapper is served with mashed potatoes and wonton shrimp.
Bella Fresca is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday.
The quaint dining room has a full-service bar with happy hour specials from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with $5 wine glass pours offered every day during lunch hours.
The owners tout Bella Frescas as upscale dining with cutting-edge cuisine served in a warm and unpretentious environment, which they’ve maintained over the last two decades.
Bella Fresca isn’t much different from when it opened, besides some sprucing up over time. However, the original essence has been preserved, heavily due to customers’ urging.
“We’ve kind of become a local institution,” Sanela Tomic said. “We had so many ideas for Bella Fresca—we wanted to move it to a bigger space, we wanted to remodel it—and we were met with so much resistance from our clients.”
The reason expressed to them is that regular patrons fear that major changes will cause the restaurant to lose its intimate atmosphere and magic.
“They love how it feels and they keep telling us that,” Sanela Tomic said. “Why mess with a formula that’s been working for us for years? Not necessarily for us, but for loyal clients that have been coming for so long. We have so many regulars, but I’m also glad to see we have younger and younger clients coming into the door and enjoying that.”
The Tomics constantly face the dilemma of figuring out how to balance the old with the new. Swapping out a new dish on the regular menu means running the risk of upsetting diners who want their longtime favorites to stay.
Related: Eat big, nibble small at the new restaurant offering small plates, full entree options
“We do have a few favorites that are staples on the menu but, of course, with seasons and new chefs…sometimes you have to change the menu,” Sanela Tomic said.
Although the menu is updated from time to time, there are a few favorites that the Tomics feel they can’t take off the menu without there being a revolt, such as the calamari and fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, they said.
Another aspect that remains consistent is Bella Fresca’s approach to pasta. All pasta is made in-house, from the fettucine to the tortellini.
“The difference is unreal,” Zoran Tomic said. “It’s hard work, but it is what it is. As soon as you try you can tell the difference.”
One area that rotates is the daily and weekly specials. Food and wine specials listed on the chalkboard on the dining room walls are one of the first things guests look at upon entry.
“Every night when people come here they ask the server, ‘What’s the special tonight?’ It’s always interesting and new stuff,” Zoran Tomic said.
Bella Fresca offers a standing extensive wine list with varieties exclusive to the restaurant. The uniqueness of the menu is a draw for many customers.
“They know we’ve got wines that nobody else in town’s got,” Zoran Tomic said. “They come here if they want to try something new… You can’t find it anywhere—and you’re especially not going to find it in the grocery stores. I’m not carrying that kind of wine.”
A family that dines together
The Tomics were patrons of Bella Fresca long before they took ownership.
Bella Fresca was the couple’s regular place to grab a meal and a drink after work. It’s how they came to know the staff and the chef and owner at the time, David Bridges.
Bridges opened Bella Fresca in 2000. Eight years later, he would look for buyers as he set off on other culinary adventures.
“When he decided to move on and away from Shreveport, he decided to sell Bella Fresca, he knew we were looking for a place to buy and he offered it to us,” Sanela Tomic said.
At the time, Zoran Tomic was working at a local casino but was making plans to open a restaurant of his own.
Since he was about 20 years old, he’d worked in restaurants throughout Europe, including Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
Zoran Tomic is a native of Serbia and his wife is from Bosnia. The two met while living in Germany. They’ve been married for 25 years and together for more than 27 years.
On May 18, 1998, the couple moved to Shreveport.
“We read in a book in Germany that when you go to Shreveport, Louisiana, there’s only one place to go — that’s Superior’s Bar and Grill,” Zoran Tomic said.
The day after moving to the city, Zoran Tomic landed a job as a server at Superior Bar and Grill, which is a short hike across the street from Bella Fresca. Sanela Tomic was hired as a bartender at Copeland’s of New Orleans in Shreveport, where she worked while going to school.
“We were off on Mondays and we would come to Bella Fresca because it reminded us of those small, privately owned restaurants in Europe that were so unique and serve something unusual and different,” Sanela Tomic said. “We loved to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink and then move to the table and have dinner.”
So, when Bridges pitched the idea of the Tomics buying Bella Fresca, it was an easy decision to make.
“He called me and said ‘Zoran, you think you can buy this thing because I know when you take over you’re going to take care of it. I don’t want to just sell Bella Fresca to somebody, then a year later, it’s closed.’ I said, ‘Dude, I’m buying it right now.’ There was no problem, at all. I was on it,” Zoran Tomic said.
Bella Fresca has become a family business for the Tomics. Their two sons, Igor and Sasha, work as servers and help manage the restaurant.
“We are so glad they show interest in the family business,” Sanela Tomic said. “It was really important for us to make sure the two of them are here when Zoran had to spend more time at Sauvage because that meant familiarity was still here and seeing their faces made guests feel welcomed.”
In December, the Tomics partnered with Bridges to open a new restaurant, Sauvage, located at 608 Absinthe Court in Shreveport.
The secret recipe to restaurant success is creating an establishment where everyone feels like family, from the staff to the dining guests, they said.
“The secret is about the people who are working,” Zoran Tomic said. “The thing in Bella Fresca, we don’t change the personnel a lot because it’s familiarity—everybody’s like family.”
Bella Fresca menu highlights:
- Thai Fried Calamari. Drizzled with sweet chili Thai sauce.
- Shrimp Remoulade. Served on a bed of fried green tomatoes
- Scallops & Pork Belly. Pan-seared and served with ground grits and topped with tomato ginger sauce.
- Osso Bucco. Buttermilk braised veal Osso Bucco with rosemary and spicy roasted
- Tortellini. Homemade tortellini stuffed with ricotta cheese and mushrooms, turkey cooked in a spinach cream sauce with Italian sausage and crispy arugula.
- Pineapple Upside Down Cake cocktail. Vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and a splash of grenadine.
- Espresso Martini. Vanilla vodka, espresso, and a lemon twist.
- Limoncello Martini. Fresh squeezed lemon, fresh basil, vodka, and limoncello liqueur.
View the full dining, cocktail, and wine menus at bellafresca.com.
If you go
What: Bella Fresca
Where: 6307 Line Ave., Shreveport
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday
5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday
Info: For more information, visit bellafresca.com or follow facebook.com/bella.fresca/ or call (318) 865-6307.
Source: Thanks https://eu.shreveporttimes.com/story/entertainment/dining/2020/02/14/bella-fresca-restaurant-classic-plates-20th-year/2854527001/