Finezza Italian Bistro: Member Spotlight

Aside from a handful of new businesses popping up over the years, the small commercial district on Harding Road between Finezza Finals - Quinn Ballard - Nashville Originals-7732the Belle Meade Plantation and the Highway 100-Highway 70 split has largely remained the same for as long as anyone can remember.

Finezza Italian Bistro is no exception: its fare as constant as the Northern Star, the restaurant has staked claim on that strip for more than two decades. With its recognizable Mediterranean-yellow walls covered with black and white family photos, earthy red bartop and the smell of freshly baked cheesecake wafting from the kitchen, many regulars say the familiar spot is at once homey and upscale.

Finezza first opened its doors in 1991, and while the authentic, made-to-order Italian dishes encouraged hungry Nashvillians to give it a try, the warm atmosphere made diners feel like family and kept them coming back. This summer, the popular destination changed ownership—but the Finezza philosophy hasn’t changed a lick.

Like most Italian places, Finezza markets to families who will grow up in the restaurant, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, proms and other special occasions within its walls, and as part of the Finezza family. Shelly Bouton Surgener—the restaurant’s newest owner—was once among those families.

“I’ve been coming to Finezza with my kids since it first opened more than 20 years ago,” says Shelly. “We grew up with it, and when I saw it was for sale I knew I wanted to invest in it. It just brought up warm, familiar memories.”

She purchased the bistro several months ago from long-time owner Karen Yerbich, who also grew up with the restaurant, starting out as a server and working her way up to manager and eventually owner.

Shelly worked under Karen for six weeks, meeting the regulars and becoming familiar with the menu. Since taking over full time, Shelly has begun planning ways in which to put her mark on the restaurant. The changes to Finezza will be subtle, like shifting heavier focus to local ingredients, phasing in seasonal menu items and introducing contemporary updates.

“We want to bring the restaurant up to speed with current trends in the food industry, like sourcing local ingredients,” she says, “but without losing that Northern Italian old world feel that I’ve always loved about this place.”

Shelly said the chefs are excited to develop the seasonal menus and have renewed energy around the bouncing ideas. Guests can look forward to a 2015 spring/summer menu with more fish dishes, fewer cream sauce-based items and more local produce.

However, diners will still be able to order many of Finezza’s most popular dishes—ones that were first put on the menu in 1991—such as the pizza, lasagna, lobster ravioli, chicken piccata and homemade cheesecakes.

Shelly said she will also continue hosting families for the popular Family Nights every Wednesday, when kids eat for free. Not only is this a time for parents to treat their children to dinner, she says, but they can also save some change while having a chance to catch up with each other.

At the end of the day, one thing will always remain the same at Finezza, and that’s family. Family’s why the Finezza Facebook page features more pictures of the staff than food, family’s why Nashvillians continue to share their evenings with the bistro, and family’s what inspired Shelly to take over the business.

Finezza Italian Bistro is open Sunday through Thursday, 5-9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m. For more information on Finezza, including adult and kid menus, happy hours and more, visit their website at www.finezzabistro.com.

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