Bellissimo — the name means “the most beautiful”, but Joey Bellissimo, owner-and-operator of Bellissimo Bistro and Espresso Bar, is trying to keep it humble.

“We’re just a family-owned-and-run restaurant trying to share what we know and love,” he says.

Bellissimo was born in Toronto and moved to St. John’s in 2002. “My dad is a full-blooded Italian from Toronto… his parents are from a little town in Calabria, Italy, and moved to Toronto in the early fifties,” says Bellissimo.

“My mom’s a Newfoundland girl … Chance Cove,Trinity Bay. Both my mother and father work here with me. I’ve always been proud of both my heritages and appreciate them greatly,” says Bellissimo. “They helped shape who I am.”

Bellissimo says that he hopes his experiences as a proud gay man help make a place where everybody feels comfortable, with its neighbourhood restaurant style. And, hey, gender neutral washrooms!

Any favourite items on the menu? “I’m a big veal fan,” says Bellissimo, laughing. “The Veal Parmesan is amazing.”

“People have been dying for the breakfast pizza and cannoli-stuffed French toast,” says Bellissimo, of their signature brunch dishes. The breakfast pizza features eggs poached in tomato sauce, on a pizza crust topped with a mozzarella cheese blend and peameal bacon, ham, or Italian sausage.

For dessert, or with a cup of espresso, there’s classic Italian pastries with big flavour, like Chambord-marinated strawberry ricotta-filled cannoli.

“Also the lunch pizza is a great seller, along with the lasagna,” says Bellissimo. “We make our own crust and it’s a three-day process. We also make the pasta for the lasagna fresh for each batch.”

For food-sensitive types, the restaurant offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well.

“Everything is made in house from scratch,” says Bellissimo. “Our main goal is to make everyone feel at home when they visit us and to serve fresh, affordable, authentic Italian meals. I want people to experience the amazing things I did growing up.”

Bellissimo is open daily for brunch at 123 Quidi Vidi Road (Monday to Friday, 7:30 – 11:45; Saturday and Sunday 8:00 – 1:45), lunch (Monday to Friday, 12:00 – 3:30; Saturday and Sunday 1:00 – 3:30) and dinner (Tuesday to Saturday, 5:00 – 9:00). Find them on Facebook at Bellissimo Bistro & Espresso Bar, or Instagram @bellissimobistro.