When Paolo Tramontano visited New York on a vacation in 1999, he likely did not realize what his future had in store for him. Nearly 16 years later, he’s living in Nashville and treating the masses to Neapolitan cuisine at his popular restaurant, Bella Napoli Pizzeria. It has been an interesting ride for the immigrant, to say the least.
“I came for vacation,” he says in his broken English. “But I met some friends and I ended up staying.”
Tramontano took a job as a chef in the Museum of Modern Art. While he enjoyed it, he soon found himself soaking up the sunshine in south Florida.
“I went to Miami, to the South Beach area, and opened a restaurant down there with the owner,” he says. “The restaurant was on Ocean Drive, but after 9/11 business wasn’t good.”
Since his wife had family in Nashville, Tramontano was once again on the move. Only this time it was a real leap of faith — there were no planned restaurant openings or guaranteed gigs for him in Tennessee. In fact, despite his credentials, he took a job busing tables with the promise that kitchen work would one day come.