Pete’s Café Bella Sera
There are industry pinnacles in the restaurant business. Some eateries reach them because their food is simply superb. Some, because they attract the glitterati and then others flock to be warmed by the same embers. Many ascend the ladder of legend on ambiance: the way the place makes them feel while there. Instead of just dining, you become part of something; a party, an experience, a slice of the good life. Restaurants are happy to reach any of those; just one can transform them from ordinary to extraordinary and bestow the coveted prize: passionate, devout customers and longevity.
Cooking on all burners (lucky pun), is rare. Like a perfect mouthful of a well-prepared dish, washed down by a masterfully matched wine, Pete’s Café Bella Sera pretty much hits ALL the marks. And for five years has created the bar to which most are measured.
And owner Pete Lombard knows it. A scrappy, self-taught chef with a definite stroke of genius, this ex-Marine was destined for this road. Waking up in the middle of the night in his Ft. Lauderdale apartment in a quad-plex in 1984, a fire raged in the unit next to him. “I worked days, and never noticed anyone living there, or any of the other units for that matter,” he said. His military training engaged, he pounded on the door to no answer, and broke it down to find a heavyset man already engulfed in flames. Pulling him to safety, he used a garden hose to put out the fire, got help and kinda-Pete-like, just went back to his own life. Days later, a young guy pulls up in a Maserati and starts pounding on another unit. Pete tells the guy no one lives there, but out comes a guy who apparently did. The guy tells the kid, he quits. Long story shortened, the kid offers Pete that job at his restaurant. Pete said he had a job; two in fact; installing cable and training dogs. The kid basically said, “So?” and made Pete an offer. “I cleaned lettuce, peeled tomatoes and did pretty much whatever.” One night turned to two, two turned to more and pretty soon they offered this hardworking new-comer full-time plus. After a few weeks, who walks in the door? The man whose life Pete saved. Turns out, he was the Chef at the venerable Runway 84 and the reason Pete never knew his neighbors is they ALL worked crazy hours at the restaurant, and never crossed paths.
Not knowing what he could do to repay Pete’s kindness, he taught Pete everything he knew about being a chef. And Pete soaked it all in like a sponge. Lifelong friends, and best man at Pete’s wedding, Pete found family at Runway 84 and fulfilled his destiny honing considerable natural skills and wicked culinary talent. When the Executive Chef had heart trouble, Pete was offered the position and the legend at Runway 84 soared. After 17 years, he took a year off and pondered what most mid-lifers do at that point, his future. Five years ago, that future brought Pete’s Café Bella Sera to Parkland, and no one has looked back since. Not the city where the restaurant is most assuredly one of the crown jewels, not the devout patrons who willing to pay for perfection; flock there still. Not the legions of sports figures and celebs who can snuff out THE places to see and be seen in when they come to town, and surely not Pete, wife Patti and their family who put their whole hearts, souls and sweat equity into a place that continues to raise an already impossibly high bar.