Joyce Ward grew up working days in her father’s delis on Long Island, New York, and many were the happy nights she spent at home, one of six kids savoring their Italian mama’s cooking.
Today Ward puts those two foundations of her life to excellent use in the kitchen at Bella’s Bistro and Bar, the Italian restaurant she and her husband, Larry Ward, opened two weeks ago at the former site of Auburn Wine and Caviar at 2402 A St. SE.
The restaurant carries her childhood nickname.
“My grandmother was Tingatella, and my dad used to call me, ‘Bella Tingatella,’ ” Ward explained.
Indeed, for a brief moment, Ward and her sister owned a restaurant called Tingatella’s in Kent.
Excepting the restaurant’s many wines and beers and the pasta itself, everything on the menu, from lasagna to ziti, from chicken parmesan to those mouth-watering sausage-and-pepper sandwiches, Ward whips up herself, by hand, right there at Bella’s.
Among the signature drinks concocted at the full-service bar are “A-Ward-Winning Martini,” a mixture of vodka or gin with added strawberry or raspberry, “Bella’s Raspberry Bellini,” and “Bella Bella Royale.”
For sweet tooths, the restaurant offers cannoli, “crisp, sweet pastry shells stuffed with a decadent filling,” tiramisu, “Death by Chocolate Cake,” and New York cheesecake with a raspberry drizzle.
“It’s comfort-food here, home style, what I like to cook,” Joyce Ward said. “I wanted to keep it simple and keep the prices low.”
The laid-back Mr. Ward is to be found out front with customers. A welder for 40 years, he retired from that profession only three weeks ago to prepare for the bistro and bar’s opening day.
Bella’s cuisine won’t be exclusively Italian all the time. This summer, the couple expect to indulge their American tastes by doing a mess of barbecuing on the restaurant’s patio.
“We’re going to get a nice smoker and cook some ribs, cook up some pulled pork, and if I can learn how to do it correctly. biscuits. Joyce and I barbecue like you wouldn’t believe,” Mr. Ward said.
“Once we’re open for a while, we’ll start incorporating some daily specials, lunch specials dinner specials,” Joyce Ward said.
“The experience we want people to have?” said Mr. Ward, pausing a moment to consider the question.
“I suppose just laid back and comfortable. It’s home-cooked Italian food, like you’d have at home in any Italian family. Nothing high end.”
Bella’s is open from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.