By Jacki Mieler | Photo by John Burcham
"Change" is a word that evokes strong emotions. Some embrace it with open arms. Some resist it with every fiber of their being. At La Bellavia, in Flagstaff's Historic Southside, change is a rarity, and even when it happens, everything pretty much stays the same.
When Patricia Gomez bought La Bellavia in 2011, she became the third owner in the restaurant's 37-year history. But restaurant loyalties are more about the food that comes out of the kitchen than the person who actually owns the kitchen. Thankfully for La Bellavia enthusiasts, Gomez has been at the helm of the restaurant's kitchen for more than 22 years.
When the restaurant recently came up for sale, she didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands — hers were the hands that handcrafted the menu, which overflows with homemade breakfast items and a few lunch items for those who can somehow resist the lure of 13 different versions of eggs Benedict.
"I didn't have a desire to buy it, but I didn't want someone else to buy it," Gomez says about becoming a reluctant business owner.
She was so concerned with her customers' perceptions of change that she avoided updating the owner's name on her menus for a full year. As it turned out, the name didn't make a difference, and as long as Gomez is still manning the kitchen, hungry diners will line up 30 minutes deep out the front door.
Those who are paralyzed with breakfast indecision between sweet and savory offerings have it easy at La Bellavia, where egg dishes, including all of those Benedicts, are accompanied by a fluffy buttermilk pancake or country potatoes.
And for the sweet-tooth contingent in particular, there are options such as thick-cut French toast topped with strawberry butter. If the cranberry-hazelnut version is on the specials board, it's worth a French toast upgrade. The hearty Swedish oat pancakes topped with hot cinnamon apples take a little extra time, but doesn't everything that's truly worth eating?
After two years under Gomez's ownership, the only thing that's really changed at La Bellavia is the rotating local art exhibit on the walls. And that's all the change she needs.
La Bellavia is located at 18 S. Beaver Street in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-774-8301.