St. George restaurant offers authentic Italian food with a healthy twist – St George News

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ST. GEORGE —Love carbs but hate the bloat and regret?

Richard Doerr and Marie Perez, co-owners of Bella Marie’s Pizzeria, pose inside their restaurant, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2022 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Made by experienced chefs and backed by a registered nurse, this restaurant serves authentic Italian dishes and pizza, all completely redesigned with health in mind.

“Our menu is big,” Perez said. “It’s not only Italian food, but it’s also pizza. In fact, we are the only Italian restaurant in town that carries both authentic New York thin-crust brick oven pizza, and homemade Italian food.”

Originally from New Jersey and ready for a healthier climate, Marie Perez and her partner Richard Doerr made the move to St. George in 2008. What would typically be seen as contrasting careers – Perez a registered nurse and Doerr a chef – ended up being the perfect match to start their own business – Bella Marie’s Pizzeria and Restaurant.

Doerr, whose mother is Sicilian, said he took his first job as a pizza maker at an Italian pizza shop in 1981. He then moved up in the ranks to become a manager, then general manager of large chain restaurants such as the Olive Garden. As a registered nurse, Perez said seeing many health issues such as cancer, along with her own reactions to preservatives and MSG, led her to be “very picky” about her food.

The original location of Bella Marie's Pizzeria is shown in St. George, Utah, Aug. 2016 | Photo courtesy of Marie Perez, St. George News
The original location of Bella Marie’s Pizzeria is shown in St. George, Utah, Aug. 2016 | Photo courtesy of Marie Perez, St. George News

Combining their careers and knowledge, the couple decided to open their own east coast-inspired Italian restaurant on South Silicon Way in 2009, but with one condition – Perez would take Sicilian family recipes and focus on alternative, health-conscious ingredients. Using less dairy and concentrating on fresh-cut veggies, the menu now provides the same Italian flavors with a healthier twist.

“You could be the richest person, but if you’re sick, what do you do with your money? Health is priceless,” Perez said.

At Bella Marie’s Pizzeria, every meal is made from scratch when ordered with only fresh ingredients. Focused mostly on garlic pepper and Italian spices, Perez said she makes all the spice blends herself, taking out the need for preservatives or MSGs.

Hand-making all their pizza dough, Bella Marie’s Pizzeria only uses unbleached flour that is processed naturally, which means it’s exposed to the air instead of chemicals. This results in no potassium bromate – a possible human carcinogen added to most flour, and an ingredient that she said is in the top 5 for cancer-causing agents.

A handmade margarita pizza from Bella Marie's Pizzeria is shown, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2022 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News
A handmade margarita pizza from Bella Marie’s Pizzeria is shown, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2022 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

“I can get flour for $10 a bag,” Doerr said. “Or, I can get our flour for $22 a bag. Most chains don’t do their research and they’re going to get the cheapest product they can get to make their food. We spend a little more money to make high-quality food. And that’s where the nurse side really comes in.”

Continuing the authentic east coast Italian style of pizza making, their pizza dough is hand-stretched and cooked in an “old school” New York/New Jersey brick oven.

“The difference in quality is homemade food you would get at home, “Doerr said. “And that’s what we do here.”

While Bella Marie’s Pizzeria has been open for over 13 years, the first location was shut down for six months while they renovated the new restaurant location, which opened in April. In order to maintain food quality, the couple said one of them is always at the restaurant either cooking or overseeing the process.

As for future plans, the couple plans to renovate a separate space inside the restaurant that will provide private, upscale dining by reservation only.

“This is the perfect location, the perfect place for what we want to do,” Doerr said. “It’s a journey. So now, we’re just at that point where we want everyone to know we’re here.”

Bella Marie’s Pizzeria and Restaurant is located at 720 E. 700 South in St. George. For more information, visit their website or Facebook.

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