By Patty Talahongva
Nathan Uveydo intended to take care of people by entering the medical field, even earning his Certified Nursing Assistant certificate while still in high school. But a snafu with transferring to nursing school left him with a few blank months, and in that time he explored the world of restaurants and ended up taking care of people by feeding them—one kosher dish at a time.
His latest venture is La Bella Pizzeria and Restaurant, 6505 N. 7th St., Suite 105, which he says has had a “phenomenal” first year of business. “The name means beautiful,” he says. “I find it fits my presentations.”
Uveydo is no stranger to the kosher Italian food business. He owned King Soloman’s on 7th Street and Camelback Road for many years before selling it. He also currently owns two restaurants in Manhattan.
“I love feeding people,” he says with a smile. The recipes are his own, and he credits growing up next door to Bella Napoli Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue in New York City for planting those first seeds of interest.
He offers a menu that’s rare in Phoenix: kosher and vegetarian. All of the “meat” is parve, meaning it is made from tofu and soy. “I do cook, yes. These are my recipes. They work the way I want it, and they represent me.”
His pizzas have names like Frank Sinatra, Al Capone, Dean Martin and The Don, which all go back to the boroughs of New York and the Italian influence on the people, community and food. A 14-inch pie ranges from $13.99 to $16.99 and an 18-inch ranges from $18.99 to $24.99. You can also buy pizza by the generous slice for $4 or less.
The vodka pie “was a mistake,” says Uveydo and then stops and changes his answer. “It was a trial that succeeded,” he explains. He was trying to make a new dish when he stumbled onto this cheese crust pizza with a pink sauce. It has become a very popular selection.
There are 20 fish dishes on the menu featuring tuna, flounder, salmon, trout and red snapper. These dinners average $18 and come with two sides. He favors the grilled tuna, which is perfectly prepared and bright pink in the center. All of the fish is flown from New York three times a week. On those same flights are his cheeses and desserts, which include favorites such as cheesecake, tiramisu, cannoli and zeppoli. He sources his vegetables from local growers and they are pesticide-free.
Pasta is Uveydo’s favorite dish. “I like to make the real deal,” he points out, and that means using real heavy cream and all-natural flavors in his sauces. You can get a lasagna or baked ziti dinner for $9.99, or try the Pasta a la Salmone for $14.95. Other familiar Italian selections include gnocchi, ravioli, fettucini alfredo and eggplant parmesan. Sliced eggplant also can be found on occasion as a pizza topping.
La Bella doesn’t sell alcohol but you can bring in your own if it’s kosher, meaning no additives or flavors.
Uveydo wants his place to be a restaurant where families can enjoy the food without any interruptions. The background music is where it should be, in the background. It’s not blasting at a high volume so you can actually have a conversation with your party and not compete with the music.
Visitors and business travelers to the Valley tend to find him because he is one of the few kosher restaurants in town—and that’s without using social media. Uveydo is working on setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter account, most likely in the fall, and then he’ll be able to post specials of the day.
Catering, both on and off premises, is a big portion of the business. La Bella caters business meetings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and even breakfast—although the restaurant isn’t actually open for breakfast. There’s a special breakfast menu that offers French Toast, Cream Cheese with Lox and Whitefish.
Delivery also is available within 15 miles (minimum purchase of $15), but Uveydo cautions that the food might not be piping hot when it arrives. But it will be delicious.
Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, and open one hour after sunset on Saturdays until midnight. For more information, like to find out what the pizza slices for the day are, call 602-354-7002. They only have one phone line, so if you call around lunchtime, expect the line to be busy for a while. To see the full menu, visit www.labellapizzeriaandrestaurant.com.