Who you NEED to Meet: Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina

We’re here to whet your appetites this morning with a fun Q&A with Bella Cucina creator, Alisa Barry! And this just so happens to be a timely post, as Alisa’s fabulous creations serve as idea hostess and holiday gifts.

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If you’ve visited the showroom lately, chances are you’ve seen some Bella Cucina products. And we’re here to share these gorgeous pantry staples are just as delicious as they are beautiful. With an appreciation for beauty and a sensibility for classic, yet innovative flavors, Bella Cucina makes products by hand, in small batches in the traditional European hand-crafted way. We’re thrilled to offer them to all of our friends and fans in the steve mckenzie’s showroom.

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Alisa Barry Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

About Alisa:

Alisa is an artist, author & entrepreneur. 

Honing her culinary skills in San Francisco, Berkeley and the California wine country, she formed a food philosophy that continues to inform her simple, yet sophisticated cooking style. She believes it’s not only about what you eat, but also how you eat. When we take time to slow down and savor, we can enjoy food as a simple luxury in our daily life. 

After opening a small, European-style lunchtime café in Atlanta, Alisa expanded her offerings from locally sourced seasonal and organic menu items to a line of beautifully packaged pantry provisions.  

Winning numerous prestigious industry awards, Bella Cucina has garnered the attention of the media over the years. A highlight has been a feature on Oprah’s most popular “Favorite Things” show {twice!}, O magazine, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Garden, and Cooking Light. 

Alisa and her designer husband, Smith Hanes, enjoy returning to her culinary roots in the quiet food mecca of Yountville, California and visiting her favorite places in Tuscany, Italy. 

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sm’s: Can you please share a bit about your background/how you started Bella Cucina and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?

AB: I first fell in love with the art of eating when I lived in Europe many years ago. Every time I returned, I was reminded that taking time to savor is one of the simplest luxuries we can afford ourselves, everyday.  Bella Cucina first started as a small lunchtime café.  Inspired by Alice Water’s philosophy of using what’s in season, I would buy whatever the organic farmer’s harvested for the week and create my menu around the ingredients.  I was the cook, the caterer and the clean-up crew.  Soon after we opened, customers were asking how they could enjoy the flavors of the food in their own kitchen.  Within a short year, I was bottling up freshly picked basil pesto, baking Death by Chocolate cookies and  and preserving a Mediterranean condiment called preserved lemons.  Within a short time, I had a complete line of Italian-inspired pantry provisions. Fast forward a decade and some years later;  Bella Cucina has become an award-winning artisan-made product line sold around the world.

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sm’s: What inspires you/your work?

AB: Bella Cucina is one vehicle for my creative and artistic expression. It is my offering, my art. It’s also been an unexpected vehicle for personal transformation.  Over the last 2o plus years I’ve been in business, I’ve had many accomplishments and accolades. I’ve also experienced overwhelming obstacles and adversity.  I have found that it is in the challenges and change that I have learned the most, which has shaped the artist & entrepreneur I am today. Alchemy isn’t easy, but it always leaves beauty behind.

I am inspired by everything.  Aesthetic arrest is what awakens me. I like to think of my life as a perpetual pilgrimage of astonishment & awe. Several days a week, I make time to be in my studio at home. It’s a sacred space where I can make something simply for the sake of creation.

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sm’s: What makes Bella Cucina products different from other pantry products found on market shelves?

AB: Bella Cucina makes over fifty different products:  from antipasti appetizers to our famous pestos, pasta sauces and dolci desserts.  Everything we produce is made by hand in small batches.  All our recipes start as experiments in my kitchen which I call  il laboratorio. It’s where all of the creations begin.

sm’s: What do people love about using Bella Cucina products?

AB: Simplicity is the new luxury. People want to eat and entertain and we try to  make it so easy.   With just a few simple ingredients and well-chosen serving plates, you can put out an impressive spread that will delight your guests with a feast for the senses.   There’s nothing to more do but linger around the table with good food and friends.

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sm’s: Do you ever experience kitchen disasters like the rest of us?

AB: I’ve had too many recipe disasters to mention – everything from soggy granola to exploding oranges. But I’ve learned to just toss these failures in the trash and start over. Creativity is about risk-taking and experimentation.  Dare to falter every once in a while.

What do you love about what you do?

AB: I love shopping in farmer’s markets for inspiration and creating new products.  It is an artistic expression of my creativity.  When I create a recipe that really works and people are delighted with it and use it in their own way, and e-mail me HOW the used it in their kitchens, feeding their family, that carries a big reward, I just Love that part of my work. Hearing their stories and seeing the photos of their own creations.

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Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

sm’s: How would you sum up your aesthetic & design philosophy?

AB: Simplicity. Restraint. Beauty.

sm’s: What’s on the horizon for you/Bella Cucina?

AB: Another cookbook.  Its about how the act and art of cooking and eating can nourish us body, mind and spirit. How rituals make a mundane activity more meaningful. A habit made holy.

Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee
Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

We so love these Bella Cucina goods, but what we appreciate even more is Alisa’s sentiments on lifestyle and savoring your surroundings and great company while dining. She definitely embodies that European way of living and we are fans! Thank you to Alisa for sharing so much about herself and Bella Cucina with our readers.

Be sure to check out her wonderful line of pantry items, and pick a few up for you and all those hostesses you’ll be visiting over the holidays next time you find yourself in the store… Our team will be happy to guide you toward one fantastic product or we can put together a delicious gift basket – either way, it’ll be ready to present when you leave the steve mckenzie’s showroom!

 

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