The family of Lori Baxter works toward a common goal at Carson City’s Bella Vita Bistro. From left: Courtney, Lori, Ali and Jesse.
Running a restaurant is always a challenge even in the very best of times. What has kept Lori Baxter, owner of Bella Vita Bistro, centered through the pandemic and economic downturns is her family, first and foremost.
As we embrace the season of family and food and the importance of small business, it is fitting this close-knit family be highlighted. As the mother of five adults over 30, three of whom work within the restaurant, Baxter states, “Without my close-knit family and some truly loyal customers, I don’t think I could have made it through the pandemic.” She is also grateful to have received a Small Business Administration loan helping to keep the 10 employees on the payroll.
Son Jesse is a jack-of all-trades in the “back of the house,” a restaurant term for overseeing what a customer usually does not see. He oversees the successful catering side of the business, the Healthy Living To-Go Dinner Service division, orders food and supplies, cooks, and does anything needed when needed. He also is quite the in-house sushi chef when dishes are ordered in advance. He asserts, “I love this business and could never see myself being a 9-5er.”
Daughter Courtney works the “front of the house” and makes certain everything a customer sees upon entering the restaurant is up to par. She makes certain customers are comfortable and oversees the servers, most of whom have been serving guests since the opening on Jan. 2, 2018. She also manages the delivery business and is fondly known by many customers as “the sandwich girl.” She is as outgoing as her mother and makes friends easily and loves everything about working in a restaurant.
Daughter Ali works part-time and helps out when she can. She is otherwise a busy mother of two and her children are her priority.
The Baxter children grew up in the restaurant business and have watched the trials and tribulations faced by their mother and collectively express that even on the worst days, they wouldn’t want to do anything else. Baxter serves as the general overseer and matriarch of the family business proudly stating, “My kids have seen the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the mistakes I’ve made, the successes, and the hard work it takes to run a successful business, and they have stuck with me throughout.” The kids reflect her positiveness and energy and insist this is their life.
Jesse, Courtney, and Ali had worked in other restaurants before joining their mother. Collectively stating, “We grew up working in restaurants and it became part of our blood, so we decided why should we work for others when we have our own restaurant?”
The family motto is “One Team – One Dream,” a motto that is at their core. They discuss everything and at times those discussions can be heated. in the end, family unity prevails because they respect and trust each other to make decisions to benefit the family and the business which is key to their livelihood. There is always a family member on duty to make certain everything goes smoothly.
It’s the catering business that occupies most of their time and comprises about 2/3 of their sales. Some days there are multiple jobs. All food is cooked fresh and “from scratch” in their restaurant kitchen and catering jobs can be as far away as 200 miles. The favorite catering item is the home-made potato chips and dips that have customers coming back again and again.
Jesse terms the food offerings to be “Elevated American,” featuring fusion dishes along with the popular traditional American offerings. The prelude to dining is the famous chips and dips that will have you calling for more.
The cozy restaurant is located on the east side of the Carson Mall and open for lunch Monday-Saturday and serves dinner Wednesday-Friday featuring live music every Friday. Closed Sunday. They can handle private parties up to 100 in the Bistro and can cater large or small groups. And, of course, you can order ahead for pickup. www.bellavistbistro.com. 775-515-4300. It is small local restaurants that provide the character of our community.
As the grandmother of 18 with another on the way, Baxter has a whole new generation of restaurateurs to cultivate to keep this a true family affair. Now that the pandemic is but a memory, it has again become Bella Vita for her and her optimistic and committed family.
As the fifth anniversary of the family venture is celebrated on Jan. 2, all are looking forward to the future and more bella vita (the good life).