Jessalyn Italiano got her first job at an Italian restaurant when she was a teenager, she said she thinks, based on her last name. Now, she is the co-owner of downtown Tempe Italian restaurant Caffe Boa.

Italiano and her business partner, Zachary Powell, took ownership of the restaurant officially in 2021, she said. The restaurant first opened in 1994. Both Powell and Italiano had worked at the restaurant for years and moved up the ranks, and when the original owner was ready to retire, Italiano said she knew she wanted to keep the restaurant in the family, so to speak.

“It was an opportunity to not let something as magical as Boa go to someone who might not understand it or who wanted to change it,” Italiano said. “We wanted to keep the legacy alive of organic food, family and community.”

Caffe Boa serves a variety of authentic, handmade Italian classics and dishes with new twists on Old World flavors, Italiano said. The restaurant also makes it a priority to support local business in Arizona, and in other states, to bring their products into the eatery.

“Whatever we put on our shelves, we want to know where it came from and what exactly is in it,” Italiano said. “That’s a big part of what I love about Boa. We don’t just put food on the table and end it there. We really want people to understand the dishes and cocktails and wines they are ordering. There’s an education piece to it for the staff. I want you to be introduced to something you didn’t know before when you come in here.”

Italiano said for the last 28 years Caffe Boa has been tucked in its location on Mill Avenue in one of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. She said that because it is not right on the street like the other restaurants and bars on Mill, it is a bit of a hidden treasure—and appeals to a lot of demographics.

“You can come here to study or work and have an afternoon coffee and a snack,” she said. “You could come in with friends for happy hour or a nice dinner, or you could have a graduation party or wedding reception here. We aren’t just one type of place.”