Restaurant owners often say the first year in business is the hardest to get through, but the owners of Bella Italia Ristorante said they would beg to differ—at least in their experience.

Just as Bella Italia celebrated its one-year anniversary, restaurants were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Husband-wife duo Ari Isufaj and Blinera Shurreci worried that despite a successful first year, their restaurant would not survive the pandemic. Loyal customers put their fears to rest.

“If it wasn’t for our customers supporting us like they did in the beginning, ... we wouldn’t be here,” Isufaj said.

Acts of kindness, such as positive reviews or financial contributions made via donations, gift-card purchases and tips, helped the restaurant and its employees stay afloat, Isufaj said.

It was important to Isufaj and Shurreci to give back to their community, and even though they were struggling financially, they were able to donate meals to health care workers, grocery store employees and homeless families during the holidays.

“This year has opened my eyes, ... and we wanted to pay it forward,” Isufaj said.

Bella Italia’s menu boasts traditional Italian dishes that Isufaj has adapted from his years of experience in the industry. Bestselling items include the Chicken Dam Bianca, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmesan, stromboli, calzones, pizza and more—all made from scratch.

The restaurant business is not only a career but a way of life, Isufaj said. He and his wife jumped into the lifestyle wholeheartedly when they opened Bella Italia in 2019. It started when they found the perfect location, a spot within walking distance from their house that was previously a hair salon. The couple remodeled the space to bring their vision of a welcoming, family friendly atmosphere to life.

“We live in the neighborhood, and we wanted to be a good neighborhood spot where we give people good customer service [and] good food,” Isufaj said.

Bella Italia Ristorante

3948 Legacy Drive, Plano


Hours: Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.- •9:30 p.m., closed Mon.