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An Education in Italian

Joe Wagner VFW Post 7313 is very grateful for the generous support of the Bella Donna Restaurant  and its proprietor, Donna Bianco, who donates 10% of each Tuesday’s proceeds to the Post. So when we saw the article below, we thought to share it as a sign of appreciation for the assistance that they provide to our programs on behalf of veterans in our community.

573b597993015.imageMay 18–PITTSBORO — Donna Bianco isn’t a chef — she has a master’s degree in special education. But for the last three years the only teaching she has done is educating the Pittsboro community in the delicious tastes of her homemade Italian cooking.

“It’s a passion. I’ve always enjoyed cooking,” said Bianco, who owns and runs the Italian restaurant, Bella Donna. “My parents divorced when I was 16 and we stayed with my dad. Both of my sisters were in sports and I wasn’t — so I cooked.”

Being of Italian descent, Bianco has spent years building up a repertoire of classic Italian dishes. She said she was blessed with many mentors who taught her the skills and recipes she uses at her restaurant.

“Every single recipe, I can tell you where I got it from or who showed me how to do it,” she said. “That’s my difficulty, because I’m not a chef. A lot of people like specials, but I don’t know how to do specials … I know my dishes, I know how to do my dishes and how to teach my dishes. These are my things, or that other people have taught me that I’ve used my whole life. My son has been eating most of this food his whole life.”

Bianco is a North Carolina transplant from New York, where she taught special education. She tried teaching following the move, but couldn’t find a place where she fit, so she started her own school.

“It was (called) Our Neighborhood School and I came up with this brilliant idea to put a small pizzeria inside the school and have the kids do a food-based curriculum,” she said. “I got a loan through a bank to renovate a small space and I bought equipment and I just started doing it through total trial and error.”

Bianco ran her school and pizzeria for nine years, but after being turned down for a charter in 2012 she decided to give full-time restaurateuring a try. In December 2012 she bought her building and four months later Bella Donna opened its doors.

“The building used to be a Pizza Hut and through a lot of great circumstances I was able to buy the property. My husband is a contractor and he renovated the whole place,” Bianco said. “It’s been real special for us that we both have been involved in creating this place.”

Since opening the restaurant Bianco has worked hard to make the food as fresh, local and unprocessed as possible.

“I have a cow processed twice a year, so my meat is local,” she said. “It’s a farmer I’ve worked with for a few years now and he grows a cow for me — literally. He takes it to the processor and I pick it up and it has the Bella Donna label on it, and people can even purchase one pound packs of hamburger or steaks from me from that cow. It’s hormone free and antibiotic free.”

She also uses local eggs, milk and vegetables and always makes sure to buy American garlic and shrimp.

“I get really upset about shrimp that comes from other countries, ” she said, and don’t get her started on Chinese garlic.

Bianco said there’s no processed food at Bella Donna because that’s how she prefers to eat.

“I have to eat my food and I don’t like processed foods,” she said. “I eat real food and I could never in my life serve someone something that I wouldn’t eat. I’ve gone into other restaurants and their can goods just go on and on. Just make it (yourself). We make Alfredo sauce to order. When you order it, we pour cream, cheese and butter into pan.”

The Alfredo sauce isn’t the only thing made on the spot when you order.

“I have fresh pasta, my pasta isn’t even cut until you order,” Bianco said, “It’s a 4-ounce ball of dough,” made earlier that day or the day before, “and when the ticket comes into the kitchen we grab a ball of dough and we put it in the machine and it cuts the pasta. It takes, literally, 45 seconds to a minute to cook.”

So what’s good at Bella Donna? Everything of course.

“But it is,” Bianco insists. “I go around the menu and eat all kinds of things on my menu. My staff loves eating here.”

But she said the most popular dish is the Tuscan chicken, a recipe she got from a magazine and then tweaked.

“Tuscan chicken flies out of here day and night, all day, every day. It’s a piece of chicken breast, pounded thin, dipped in flour, egg and Parmesan cheese and deep fried,” Bianco said. “So it’s just crusted in Parmesan cheese. We serve it with a poor-man’s pasta and we put the chicken on a bed of fresh spinach. Then we make the aioli. It’s just a dish that’s perfect in itself.”

Bella Donna is located at 440 East St., Pittsboro. The phone number is (919) 545-0900. More information about restaurant can be found at

Credit: The Sanford Herald, N.C.

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Hunsinger, Hannah. “An Education in Italian.” TCA Regional News, May 18, 2016. ,