She’s a #bossbabe with her own sense of style, a flare for fashion and an entrepreneurial spirit – along with a personality to match.
Entrepreneur and Marketing/Events Coordinator
La Roma Restaurant | Ottawa, ON
How was it growing up in the restaurant business?
Growing up in this business was both amazing and difficult. I spent summers and many weekends working alongside my family either cleaning, making pasta or filing for my mom. As a teen I worked weekends and earned tips as a bus girl. Although I didn’t like working most weekends, I did enjoy making some extra cash and I remember always having my own money to go shopping and hang out with friends. I understood the value of a dollar and appreciated the things I had that were hard-earned by me.
We were also very lucky to always have the best food and wine at our fingertips and as I got older my palette for good food and wine definitely matured. You don’t see too many 20-year old girls enjoying and appreciating Super Tuscans and Barolo wines. It wasn’t always easy though and I missed my mom a lot because of the long hours she worked. She missed a lot of our school activities and extra-curriculars and was often stressed and burnt out. Those were some of the sacrifices I suppose that go along with being a small business owner and I know my mom has guilt from that time in our life.
I wouldn’t change it for the world though because it has made my family and I very close and I’m very grateful for that.
Work/home life balance is much better today. We make an conscious effort to spend quality time as a family away from the restaurant together.
Just like the fashion and beauty industry – the restaurant industry is always evolving. How has the La Roma brand evolved over the years?
This is something that we are constantly thinking about. La Roma is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Ottawa. It was established in 1962 originally and my family took over in 1990. We have evolved from being a super traditional/old school type of establishment to being a more casual fine dining restaurant with a much more youthful spirit.
Over the last several years we have been softening the La Roma image to reflect the changing times but also our own personal style and tastes. We’ve updated our décor and are in the process of re-vamping the main level again. Our menu and cocktail lists is in a constant state of change and while we honour and bring back many of the traditional dishes we do experiment with recipes and flavours to bring something new to the Italian restaurant scene here in Ottawa.
Our biggest challenge has been moving away from the perception that La Roma is a ‘special occasion’ type of restaurant or that we’re super traditional. It’s just not the case. We have a young and talented Chef that isn’t afraid to experiment and mix old fashioned ideas with modern influences. We are a contemporary Italian eatery rooted in Italian tradition.
I always say that education is important for building a career but people skills are paramount for success.
Likewise, the restaurant business is more than having amazing food – it’s about offering an experience. Your family recently celebrated 27 years with La Roma – what have you learned about the importance of building relationships in this business.
Building relations is an integral part of our business. We value each and every person that walks through our door. We are grateful for the things we can learn from our colleagues and from our clients as well. Often our clients tell us that they love to come to La Roma because of the family/home feel they get when they walk through the door. We have clients that have watched us grow and we’ve had the pleasure of watching some of our littlest clients grow up as well. Many of our staff bring their friends and family here and when they move on to other endeavours, many of them come back as clients too.
We also value and appreciate our neighbours. The Little Italy crew is close knit and many of us support each other’s businesses and look out for one another.
Building relationships, nurturing these relationships and supporting each other is very important to us.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
I love your foodie pics on Instagram! How has social media changed the restaurant industry?
Social Media has completely changed the way we speak to our audience.
I believe that it has completely changed the restaurant scene and has allowed us to speak directly to an audience that wants to listen to what we have to say. Today, we do almost zero traditional advertising and focus all of our attention and advertising dollars to Social Media. It’s a very valuable tool for us and I know we have just scratched the surface.
I love that we can post our specials and features daily and reach a wider audience. I love that we can easily share our personalities and goofy sides and really allow friends, clients and potential clients get to know us on a more personal level. I love posting pics of our food and stories about our staff.
Social Media has allowed us to reach a younger generation and an audience who loves food and wine as much as we do.
So if you had to pick – what is your favorite item on the menu?
We just updated our dinner menu for the season and have added this incredible salmon appetizer to the list. We salt cure the salmon in house and make these adorable tiny cannoli that we stuff with a smoky ricotta. This dish is so sexy to look at and so incredibly delicious.
If you could create a signature drink – what would it be?
I would call it ‘Campari with me’ and naturally Campari would be involved.
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La Roma has three simple words written on the side of the building – Live your story. Where did the idea for that come from?
I lived in the Queen West area of Toronto for the past 2 years and was definitely inspired by the street art there. Every wall had a beautiful picture or thought-provoking phrase and I caught myself going out of my way to walk by the art that inspired me, regularly. I knew that we had the opportunity to do something new and different and we happened to have the perfect spot to inspire. I knew that I wanted the message to be positive, thoughtful and empowering. And I wanted it to be a message that was relatable to everyone.
What does #liveyourstory mean to you?
To me, Live Your Story reminds me to be my true authentic self. Not to focus on the things I do not have but to celebrate the things that I do. To not just live my life but live IN it and celebrate the beauty around me.
In an age where Social Media is prevalent an often overbearing, it reminds me to live in the moment, in my moment, and not someone else’s.
I didn’t realize just how popular our wall would become but everyday people stop and snap a picture and on more than one occasion people have told me just how much Live Your Story means to them. It makes me happy to know that it has affected people in such a positive way.
You spent some time living in Toronto. What are some of the biggest differences in the restaurant and fashion scene compared to Ottawa?
I think the biggest difference is variety. There is so much more of everything in Toronto. So many more restaurants and boutiques and everything in between. The restaurants in Toronto are busy everyday and competition is stiff.
The fashion scene and restaurant scene in Toronto have this sense of freedom where anything goes, individuality is celebrated and creativity flows. But Toronto is much more populated than Ottawa and there is definitely a younger vibe, so it’s not quite fair to compare.
Ottawa has come a long way in these industries but there is still work to be done. We are a more conservative but slowly, I see change.
New restaurants are popping up all the time and I see more and more fashion forward thinkers on the streets. I definitely think Ottawa is making waves and I love where we are headed.
We’re taking risks, celebrating change and individuality. We’re living our story 😉 See what I did there?
When a group of women from the community come together to build each other up, magic happens.
I think Ottawa – overall – tends to be a little conservative. I love dressing up to go to dinner – hair, clothing and make-up it’s all a part of creating a signature style. That is why I was so impressed with the Fall Fusion event. Do think Ottawa’s style is changing – when it comes to place to shop and dine?
Like I said, Ottawa is definitely conservative but in the last couple of years I’ve witnessed our city growing up a little. There is more variety now than ever before. You see bums in seats on weeknights, not just weekends. More people are knowledgeable about food and wine and want an experience, not just a meal.
Meeting for cocktails is a real thing.
I definitely see both men and women taking fashion risks, dressing up more often and having more deliberate fashion moments.
This makes me giddy. They’re my two passions food and fashion, nothing better than that!
Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering a few personal questions?
Do you have a daily beauty routine?
I’ve perfected the 5-minute face and it usually involves my tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier), brow filler (Benefit), Mascara (Extreme Lash, Stila), bronzer/blush (Bobbi Brown), Chapstick (Burt’s bees). I love make up but try to keep it as natural as possible during the day. A night out is when I like to go all out with eyes and lips.
How would you describe your personal style?
Non-committal. I love to experiment will all fashion and styles and will pretty much try anything. In general though I probably veer towards minimalist, masculine and edgier pieces but will not say no to a beautiful ruffle.
What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?
Jogging. It’s the only thing I’ve done consistently for years and helps me clear my head when I’m anxious or stressed.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Southern Italy. I’ve had this yearning lately to get back to my roots and enjoy a rustic and simple holiday with family and friends.
Finally give us three words that describe you best.
Passionate, sensitive, spicy.