Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thin is in at Chester pizza place

In Chester and New York City, thin is in — at least when you're talking about pizza crust.

Bella Gourmet Italian Deli and Thin Crust Pizza, on Main Street in Chester, is both a pizza shop specializing in thin-crust pizza and a deli shop.

"It's a little bit of everything," says store owner John Bucetaj, who also owns Benito's Trattoria just down the street, "It's a combination of things. I didn't want strictly one thing."

Bella, which celebrated its second anniversary in October, has a deli counter up front and a pizza oven in the back. On the display trays are everything from spinach rolls and sandwiches to one of the store's mainstays — the thin-crust pizza.

"We have New York-style pizza," employee Maria Solano says, "so it's all thin crust, which you don't see around Chester."

Giving it that New York-style taste is head cook David Herra.

"I'm the big provolone over here," Herra says with a smile on his face and pizza dough on his hands, "I've been making food for 13 years, and my basis is pizza, that's what I do.

"Thin crust is my specialty, that's what I've been making all my life."

But the eatery has other dining options

"We have homemade foccacia," Solano says, talking of the bread with a delightful aroma that just came out of the oven. "There's grilled chicken, sauteed broccoli wrap, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella. We make it all from scratch in the morning."

Solano attributes Bella's success to the fact that the restaurant only uses the best materials.

"I think people are repeat customers because of the fresh ingredients," Solano says, "And if you're into food, then you know the difference between a can of soup and some fresh soup."

As for the deli portion of the shop, Bella offers a wide assortment of items to keep the stomach satisfied.

"Before I bought it, this was a sandwich place only," Bucetaj says. "Now, I have everything in one. They didn't have a pizza oven back then. They only did like, cold cuts and other deli items."

Those cold cuts now include a wide assortment of items, many with playful names given by the employees.

"For people who like eggplant, we have the Eggplant Supreme, which is on a toasted roll, fresh mozzarella, eggplant, olive oil, basil," Solano says. "And if you like roast beef, we have the Philadelphia Chaser. It's roast beef, melted provolone, tomato, romaine lettuce, all on a toasted roll."

Also on the bill are the Roller Coaster Hero, which is turkey, American cheese, peppers, onions, lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and Russian dressing, and John's Favorite, which is named after the owner. This has grilled chicken, mozzarella, roasted peppers, lettuce, tomato, mayo and oil and vinegar.

While the food is king here, Herra, like everybody else who works in Bella, also has another love outside of the food, and that's the town of Chester itself.

"Chester is a beautiful town," Herra says, "There's great people, happy people here, and I like it. It's a beautiful area."

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