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At Bella Cucina Catering, The Secret Ingredient Is Love

By S. Mathur

Michelle Jankowski, owner of Bella Cucina Catering, didn't have to look far to find inspiration for starting her business. In her family, love and good times are connected to food.

"I come from a family of kind, hard working, beautiful, strong women that inspire me," she said. "Not to mention they also happen to be fabulous cooks! ( p.s. my Dad also rocks in the kitchen) My Mom and Aunts could whip up anything and it would taste gourmet and some of my earliest and happiest memories are baking and cooking with my Grammas as a little girl."

Bella Cucina opened in downtown Joliet, IL 12 years ago, in a historic building on the corner of Raynor and Jefferson Streets. The business tag line is "We would love to cook for you", and they really mean it.

"From having my nieces Kaylee and Kendall over to bake cookies, to swapping recipes with friends, I have always loved gathering in the kitchen," Jankowski said. "There is just something magical about throwing in a pinch of this and a dash of that and having it create something yummy. I have the absolute best group of cooks and servers here and we all are one big family."

The menu has something for everyone, from delicious chicken and pastas to homemade salad dressings and appetizers. Everything is freshly made and beautifully presented. The Bella Chicken, with a crusted breast stuffed with herbs, cheeses and a butter drizzle, is a customer favorite. Jankowski's personal favorite menu item is a family recipe.

"One of my favorites and most popular appetizers is my Aunt Joann's Cranberry Meatballs," she said. "Again it goes back to good family memories, lots of laughs and delicious food. Every time I make them I think of her and smile."

The catering service covers everything from breakfasts to dinner buffets. The Bella Breakfast has fresh fruit trays, breakfast sweets and a choice of delicious entrees like egg, sausage, biscuit and gravy casserole; bacon, egg & cheese Strata; cinnamon French Toast; spinach frittata and hashbrown casserole. Dessert highlights include an elegant cheesecake bar, which offers rich cheesecake in plastic champagne glasses, topped with assorted treats, and the. Death by Chocolate Fondue, a sinfully rich fondue served in a silver chafer with cream puffs, strawberries, marshmallows and brownie bites.

There's a reason why the food looks and tastes wonderful. "I love what I do and I always hope it shows in the food I send out," Jankowski said. "The secret ingredient really is love when it comes from Bella Cucina."

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