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Meet the Owners: Bella's Italian Cafe

A successful business couple chose South Tampa 26 years ago and have never regretted it.

Coming from Oklahoma where they were successful on several restaurants and nightclub fronts, Bill Shumate and Joanie Corneil moved to Tampa in 1986 in search of something new.

"It was a lot of cranes and development down here at that time," Bill Shumate said. "We looked at several different cities to move to, but the building boom and the freshness of the city at the time were a big attraction. We were lucky enough to find this location pretty fast and we've been here ever since."

Shumate, 81, has an affinity for South Tampa that beams through when he speaks of how the area has changed and what he and his now ex-wife have achieved there over the years with Bella's Italian Cafe.

Bella's Italian Cafe

1413 South Howard Avenue

(813) 254-3355

South Tampa's growth: "This is a nice area to work in. We've seen quite a bit of change over the years on South Howard and it's been fun to watch. Other businesses have come and gone and now we've got a new park across the street which is nice. We had a line the night we opened and some of the people we met that night are still coming in. We had pregnant women coming in back then and now their daughters are coming in pregnant with their own," Shumate said.

Why Italian food this time? The Shumate's had owned several businesses in Oklahoma, from burger shops to night clubs and seafood restaurants, but never an Italian restaurant before Bella's. "My wife had lived in Italy for years. She was taught how to cook by her grandmother and mother while growing up on a farm in Oklahoma and to my mind, is the best cook I've ever seen. She studied the food while she was in Italy and we figured we'd put that to use." Shumate said.

Recipes: Corneil created all of the recipes herself, whether at Bella's or their other business, Square One Burgers on Henderson Boulevard. "She knows exactly how everything should taste and what it should look like. She's has total control over it and consequently we have good food," Shumate said.

Who's Bella? "Nobody, we just liked the name. We went through a lot of different names and settled on that one. It means beautiful, which is a good thing," Shumate said.

Specialty: "We sell more pasta than anything. We sell plenty of veal and chicken but people come in a lot for just pasta and meat or tomato sauce. We go through tons of pasta," Shumate said.

Price: The price range at Bella's is pretty wide with pasta dishes running anywhere from $12.99-$20.99. The most expensive item is veal scallopini at $27.99.

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