Off the Beaten Path, the Upstate's Bella Vita Is a Culinary Experience Not to Be Missed

By:Marie McAden


Driving through the mill town of Easley on the outskirts of trendy Greenville, one wouldn’t expect to find an authentic Tuscan trattoria straight out of the streets of New York’s Little Italy.

The lifelong dream of a Jersey boy who likes to boast he was born in the same Hoboken hospital as Frank Sinatra, Bella Vita is an unexpected culinary treat in the unlikeliest of places. Housed in what was once the office of a marble company, the restaurant’s maxim perfectly describes the experience—fine Italian dining off the beaten path.

Restaurant owner and chef John Dioguardi is the son of an Irish mother and Sicilian father who earned his chops working 28 years as a captain at high-end Manhattan restaurants.

“I grew up eating pasta and red sauce,” Dioguardi said. “But after working in some of New York’s best restaurants, I fell in love with food.”

He began his cooking career catering weddings on the side to help young, budget-minded couples at his church. His southern-born wife Kelly became his pastry chef.

In 2000, the couple moved to Easley to be closer to Kelly’s aging parents. Dioguardi wasn’t going to let his new, out-of-the-way address stop him from pursing his dream to open a trattoria.

To finance his venture, Dioguardi built a cart and began selling New York-style Sabrett hotdogs outside of Lowe’s. In 2005, after completing the renovation of the building at 119 Gulf St. in Easley, he opened his restoranté.

Stepping inside the cozy 28-seat bistro, you’re immediately transported from small southern town to Little Italy, with Italian music playing in the background.

As you enjoy drinks in the intimate setting, you’ll be greeted by the quirky chef, who is known to break out in a spirited rendition of “Amore” as he moves from table to table.

As is customary in a trattoria, the menu is simple with just three entrées from land (pork or beef), sea (seafood) and air (poultry). The selection changes each week based on what’s in season and fresh at the market.

Dinner begins with an antipasto and pasta. The beautifully presented dishes are followed by the main course that can include anything from a pan roasted salmon filet with mustard seed and honey glaze to chicken scallopini stuffed with prosciutto, asparagus and fontina cheese.

Each dish is accompanied by caramelized onion mashed potatoes and ciabatta bread with homemade herb butter.

As satisfying as your meal may be, you’ll want to save room for dessert. Kelly has mastered the art of Italian pastries, offering a mouthwatering selection of classics, including tiramisu, cannolis and seasonal cheesecakes.

Bella Vita is open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. In addition, once a month, Chef John and Kelly host demonstration parties where they show guests how to make all four courses.

To make a reservation for dinner or learn more about the demonstration parties, check the website or call 864.859.1499.

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Easley is located in Pickens County at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like so many towns in South Carolina the completion of the railroad brought growth and in 187 ...
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Situated in the heart of the Upcountry, Greenville is known as the Textile Center of the World and offers great shopping, entertainment, historic, scenic and family attra ...

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