St. JOSEPH — One area restaurant wants to make its customers feel like they are on a trip to Italy — if only for a meal. And it appears to be working. 

For the fourth straight year, Bello Cucina earned the most votes to win Best Italian Restaurant in the SC Times/LOCALiQ 2020 Best of Central Minnesota Readers’ Survey. 

The Times asked Bello Cucina owner Jason Mueller about what he believes has set the restaurant apart for voters for several years.

TIMES: You’ve won Best of Central Minnesota for Best Italian Restaurant four times in a row (2016-2019). What is it about Bello Cucina that you think keeps people coming back for more?

MUELLER: I believe people keep coming back to Bello Cucina for our original, as well as traditional, Italian dishes. We pride ourselves on trying to stay current with menu trends and changing our menu twice a year. Second, consistency —you can count on us. We eat here as well and enjoy the food we serve.

Describe the most popular menu item.

… There is a list, but the top few would be butternut squash ravioli with lobster in a sage cream sauce (and) the original boom boom pow: melted mozzarella over chicken with linguini tossed in smoked bacon and asparagus with a spicy alfredo. Or if you looking for something lighter, our avocado and fresh mozzarella bruschetta with a honey balsamic drizzle. Last, can’t forget about our hand-tossed pizzas, Osso Buco or variety of of unique specials only found at Bello Cucina.

When people leave Bello Cucina, what do you want their impression of the restaurant to have been?

When people leave Bello Cucina, I often hear they felt as if they just visited Italy or Europe or anyplace other then west-central Minnesota, and what a delightful treat to have a restaurant like Bello Cucina in St. Joseph. We appreciate our guests as if we were welcoming them in our home.

For many, some staples of Italian cuisine are comfort food. Do you lean into familiarity, or toward a new experience with your food?  

We understand people have their favorites, from traditional like spaghetti and meatballs to fettuccine alfredo or Osso Buco, but we also challenge folks to try new things like shrimp and sausage stuffed mahi-mahi over risotto or an avocado BLT flatbread. Or, if you enjoy sweets, our desserts are all homemade on premise: white chocolate cheesecake, dessert nachos or chocolate di morte (death by chocolate) cake. There is something for everyone.

Read or Share this story: