Italian restaurant opens in Jefferson

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 19, 2013

Bella Ragazza, a newly-opened Italian restaurant in Jefferson, is doing business its own way.

The restaurant offers a full Italian menu, much like you see at a dine-in establishment, but there is no seating. All of the food is carry-out and delivery.

“The way our space is set up does not lend itself for us to allow people to eat in,” said Michael Toomey, who owns the restaurant with his wife Karen.

That is not the only major difference about the new establishment and traditional Italian restaurants.

Toomey said that his family is not Italian and the recipes are not handed down from generations. But the family business has so far been successful in the community.

“We put on the menu that it was the community that made us want to start Bella Ragazza,” Toomey said.

This is not the family’s first restaurant in Ashe County. Previously, they were the former owners of Brickstone Pizza in West Jefferson.

Toomey said when Brickstone Pizza closed, people would ask them when the establishment was going to reopen, and others would mention which dishes they had missed when it closed down.

It was purchasing Brickstone Pizza that originally got the family to settle down in the High Country.

“When we purchased Brickstone, it wasn’t a choice on if we wanted to do Italian, but a choice on if we wanted to live (in Ashe County,)” Toomey said.

Toomey and his wife met while attending the University of Maryland and are both from an Irish lineage.

The family had decided to move to the North Carolina mountains from Baltimore.

Bella Ragazza is Italian for “pretty girl.” The inspiration for the restaurant’s name came from their daughter.

“We always call (our daughter) pretty girl,” Toomey said. “We were trying to come up with a name that conveyed Italian.”

The Toomeys have six children, five are boys and one girl. The company logo has their daughter’s portrait with the five stars representing their sons.

Toomey said the logo was a nod to it being a family business.

The small space also provides Toomey with a challenge.

“I have never done solely delivery and carry-out,” he said. “It is taking some getting used to.”

The restaurant’s food is what Toomey describes as “semi-homemade.” Half of the products are made from scratch while other ingredients are brought in.

“We start with fresh ingredients,” Toomey said. “We do our own sauce and own dough daily.”

Despite the difficulties with space, Toomey feels the restaurant will succeed in the community through its unusual serving method.

“Not everybody can provide a full Italian menu through a delivery service,” he said.