Papa Tony’s La Bella Pizza Backyard Nonetheless Blooming After 68 Years

La Bella Pizza Backyard in Chula Vista, California, was the brainchild of Tony Raso, a Purple Coronary heart-decorated warfare veteran and dairy farmer, and his spouse, Kitty, who honed her service charms as a waitress in Manhattan. Escaping the harsher winters of New York, they ventured collectively to Southern California, the place Tony continued working as a farmer—till his boss gave him a mortgage to open the doorways of his personal enterprise, La Bella Pizza Backyard, in 1955.

“We’re the oldest within the South Bay—midway between downtown San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico,” stated Tony Raso Jr., who presently owns La Bella together with his son, his brother, Joe, and his dad’s longtime right-hand man, Stan Dale. “We’re not in a Little Italy-type space; we’re the Little Italy!”

The way in which La Bella Pizza Backyard has grown over the a long time, it may actually make that declare. Immediately, the enterprise occupies two storefronts on two parallel streets: the old-school authentic and La Bella Cafe & Video games, which spans 20,000 sq. ft and homes pool tables, arcade video games and TVs for sports activities watching.

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La Bella Pizza Backyard

An always-booked banquet facility seats 150, whereas indoor and outside seating packs in crowds year-round, from seniors returning usually throughout breakfast hours and households sharing dinners to children and millennial revelers having fun with the laid-back video games space. “We’re an occasion middle, the place folks meet to eat,” Tony Jr. informed PMQ when La Bella was inducted into the Pizza Corridor of Fame. “We’re all the time busy a method or one other.”

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Immediately, the third era joins in, as Tony Jr.’s children have developed their very own areas of experience. Son Matthew helps run the video games room, whereas Michael manages back-of-the-house and prep areas. Like her grandma Kitty, his daughter Phyllis shines as a server, internet hosting events. His brother Joe retired, so Tony Jr. steers the ship and all the time retains an eye fixed out for expansions and enhancements. “You might have to have the ability to keep proactive,” Tony Jr. stated. “I see a giant future for us.”

Tony Sr. (under), whom everybody within the space knew merely as “Papa,” can be proud—he was a fixture on the enterprise till his dying day. A easy communicator with an entire lotta coronary heart, Tony Sr. was identified for being a loving workforce chief, and that love flowed again to him from workers and group members alike. “He was so good together with his employees, and that’s how La Bella grew,” Tony Jr. remembers. “Providing great-quality meals at a good worth is vital, nevertheless it’s all in regards to the interplay.”

this vintage black-and-white photo shows Papa Tony himself adding pepperoni slices to a pizza crust in a deep circular pan
“Papa Tony” Raso (La Bella Pizza Backyard / Fb)

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.