My journey with Vita Bella has been a remarkable one and I welcome you into it as I walk through the desire that love created. This love affair has been lifelong, and I would like to share with you all my experiences, so come in, take a seat and devour my passion of food as you taste from 23 regions of Italy.
I was blessed with a sensitive palate, so from a young age I could distinguish the different flavors that encompassed a dish. Growing up, my mother made American-style food, her palate was one of survival and not of flavor. I, on the other hand, loved to add flavor into a dish to change the dynamics. I always felt Americans put too much emphasis on seasoning and spice, and never enough on the blending of simple ingredients. Then again, my blood is Italian and with a lot of research and meals (and re-creation of my mother’s meals) I was able to bring my family’s food to the table.
My family came from Pola, a small town on the peninsula of Istria in Croatia, which juts into the northernmost arm of the Adriatic Sea. My grandmother and great-grandmother devoted their lives to the growing and preparation of food. Where most of the time we were expected to join in and peel potatoes or cut the vegetables for the Sofrito, the complainers would become the professional dishwasher which they still complained about. My great-grandmother always had a solution for that…humming. During World War II Communism came to Istria, which had been given to Yugoslavia after Italy’s defeat. Many families fled Istria to save their freedom and found themselves in many different areas of Europe. Most ended up in Slovenia waiting in refugee areas as they awaited an opportunity to emigrate to America.
My family was blessed to be granted American citizenship, where freedom and opportunity soar. Throughout my school years I started diving into making unique dishes from the homeland. If I was babysitting, I was also cooking at home, and would make red sauce in different variations. At 9 years of age my younger sister Lucy and I would experiment with making flatbread pizzas after everyone was in bed. This love affair gracefully brought me to today. After marrying my high school best friend Kevin, I began to cook all the time. On our small budget we would entertain many of our friends and introduce them to new foods. Again, simple ingredients make a beautiful blend. After college, my passion was full-blown, and I just couldn’t stop making food. This turned into becoming a personal chef for private dinner parties, chairing various events, catering for family and friends. By this time Kevin had no choice but to step back and let God shine his way through me, and he did.
Today we are blessed with this opportunity to share our love with you through our food and hospitality, come in sit down and enjoy the ambiance of Italy!
– Lisa & Kevin Ergen, Owners
Justin grew up in a family that loved to cook, and learned the trade from his mother who was a chef for 30 years. Justin has worked in the restaurant industry for 18 years and really enjoyed being able to be local in the community. Starting out from working at Pine Loft Restaurant and Lounge in Princeton, running the kitchen at Bailey Ray
Justin grew up in a family that loved to cook, and learned the trade from his mother who was a chef for 30 years. Justin has worked in the restaurant industry for 18 years and really enjoyed being able to be local in the community. Starting out from working at Pine Loft Restaurant and Lounge in Princeton, running the kitchen at Bailey Rays, and Executive chef over at the Dock Cafe in Stillwater. Justin also spent over a decade working at Russell’s on the Lake in Big Lake as the Executive Chef. Justin is excited to work locally once again and with the kitchen team, continue to create delicious dishes for you all to enjoy!