Who doesn’t love pizza? Pizza with made-fresh-daily dough and sauce, and house-shredded cheese, all baked in a wood-fired oven? Even better. Bella Fuoco, Cheyenne’s only choice for wood-fired pizza, raises the bar for what makes good pizza.
Started as a mobile business by husband and wife team John and Maria Kopper, Bella Fuoco opened the door to their brick-and-mortar restaurant about a year and a half ago on the edge of downtown Cheyenne. I sat down to talk business with Ashlie Fahrer, the owners’ daughter, who serves as General Manager for the restaurant.
The restaurant is located in a quaint, older house at 2115 Warren Ave.
“Being in the downtown area is truly where our heart is,” said Fahrer. “The location is great for all of the businesses down here. I think this is just a sweet area of town.”
Fahrer explains how her family’s Italian roots inspired the concept and menu of the restaurant.
“Some of my earliest memories are standing with my Papa at the stove, watching him cook sauce,” Fahrer reminisces. “And making homemade sausage and meatballs with my parents and grandparents. My family all loves cooking, and serving people.”
When beginning the mobile business as a hobby in 2013, the Koppers attended a class to learn more about cooking on an open fire in an oven. The first venue they used to showcase their unique pizza was Fridays on the Plaza in downtown Cheyenne.
“By the time we were ready to open a brick-and-mortar place, we had quite a big following, so it was the next logical step,” said Fahrer.
Fahrer shared why the restaurant is important to her family and in what ways they hope to impact the community.
“Cheyenne is in need of some more locally-owned, family restaurants. It’s a lot of chains. So, we want to foster that in Cheyenne. We want Cheyenne to be a place that is known for locally-owned restaurants rather than those chains,” said Fahrer. “We think this time right now in Cheyenne is a really great time for entrepreneurs, because there is more of an interest now in going to places other than chains.”
For Fahrer, the most rewarding part of operating Bella Fuoco is being a part of special moments in guest’s lives. “Knowing what we are providing is an experience for each person that walks through this door,” said Fahrer. “We’re providing a place that people are planning in their day, which is really wonderful to be a part of.”
The Wingspan staff decided to try this Hidden Delicacy as a group after a Wingspan event. With winter creeping up fast, we chose to take advantage of the waning nice weather and snagged a table on the patio. The patio is a rather cozy backyard area with lights strung overhead, surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens. The first thing I noticed upon taking a seat was the box offering sidewalk chalk placed in the middle of the table, such a charming little touch (the little girl at the next table was taking advantage of the opportunity to doodle on the pavement).
Their original mobile wood-fired oven is still in use outside on the back patio and was used to bake our pizzas.
“The wood-fired flavor is just not something that anywhere in Cheyenne has. There is something, just sitting by a fire, gives you not only warmth temperature-wise, but also within your heart, I think. During the wintertime, you’ll notice that everyone in here is glancing over at the fire. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in here, and I think it just rekindles something we have gotten so far away from in this day and age,” said Fahrer.
The menu is comprised mostly of pizzas, however Bella Fuoco also offers a weekly pasta and soup special, both homemade, as well as some appetizers, salads, and paninis.
Upon the recommendation of Fahrer, the Wingspan staff sampled two pizzas.
The Jalapeño Popper, with a base of cream cheese, jalapeños, mozzarella cheese, and a drizzle of sweet chili sauce. According to Fahrer, it’s a fan favorite, and it did not disappoint. The jalapenos provided just the right amount of spice that was tempered by the cream cheese. The sweet chili sauce added unexpected flavor and texture not often found on a pizza.
We also tried the Lasagna pizza, which is constructed with Italian sausage, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, and basil with a marinara sauce. This pizza tastes exactly like homemade lasagna.
According to Fahrer, “our dough is made from scratch every single day from scratch. Our sauce is the same way. We shred our own cheese every day. And every pizza is made to order.”
You can definitely taste the difference and all of the care put into preparing each ingredient. It is hard to beat the flavor of fresh.
The staff was friendly and attentive. Our server was very pleasant, making sure we knew the specials and her menu favorites. A few raindrops threatened to send us inside, but owner John Kopper quickly pulled another umbrella over to ensure our entire crew stayed dry. Kopper was bustling about throughout our entire meal, adding to the feeling that this is truly a family run restaurant.
According to Fahrer, the most challenging part of operating the restaurant is staffing. She encourages Laramie County Community College students who are looking for part-time work to consider applying at the restaurant.
“We always need more talented people,” she said.
Fahrer is optimistic about the future of the restaurant.
“Our main goal is to be a longstanding, Cheyenne mainstay,” said Fahrer. “We have this sweet little space here.”
I will be visiting Bella Fuoco again, maybe for a date night, or even to grab a panini for lunch when I’m downtown. The atmosphere is very welcoming and the food absolutely fresh and delicious.