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Mano Bella, a North Carolina Italian Market of Love and Food

Here's the (love) story behind Mano Bella Artisan Foods and its new flagship cafe and market in Charlotte, NC.

Mano Bella merchandise on display in-store.

Mano Bella merchandise on display in-store.

Many of the newer Italian markets are becoming more modern but still offer traditional delicacies that we hope to find when we walk through the door. I had the pleasure of walking through the door of a Mano Bella Artisan Foods, a new Italian bistrot and market in the South Park section of Charlotte, NC. 

Madison and Raffaele Patrizi are the lovely couple who own and operate Mano Bella. Madison grew up in Los Angeles but studied at Notre Dame. After graduating, she began her professional career as an architect in Pasadena, California.

Madison and Raffaele Patrizi of Mano Bella.
Raffaele and Madison Patrizi of Mano Bella in Charlotte, NC.

Raffaele grew up in Rome. His father is from the Umbria region, and his family is eight generations of butchers from Norcia, a mountaintop village famous for pork and cured meats. His mother is from south of Rome near the coast, an agricultural area. So, Raffaele’s love for food began young, and he had the best teachers!

While attending Notre Dame, Madison went to Rome through a program with the university. It was there that she met Raffaele. It was love at first sight, a true Hallmark story. There may have been a huge language barrier, but they knew they had something special. Dating long distance for a year, they used Google translate and emojis to communicate.

After a year, Raffaele proposed. They lived in LA for five years while he built his culinary career. Madison's parents packed up and moved to Charlotte, and she and Raffaele decided to follow. I actually met her parents while I was in the market, and you could just see their pride as they made recommendations of items I should take home.  

House-made pastas at Mano Bella in Charlotte, NC.
House-made pastas at Mano Bella in Charlotte, NC.

As their marriage blossomed, Madison started witnessing Raffaele’s love for food. Three years ago, they began making pasta and Italian goods in their kitchen together, selling their product at local farmers markets. From there, they opened Mano Bella as a pasta bar in a small location at a food hall with shops, The Market at 7th Street, in Charlotte's Uptown area. Last month, they opened their flagship Mano Bella location in SouthPark, a fast-casual cafe with a full wine bar, coffee and desserts, as well as grab-and-go delicacies. There's pasta making in the front of the dining room and fluffy focaccia baking in the back. (And the pasta bar in Uptown remains open.)

Mano Bella means beautiful hand, and that certainly touches the story of their journey together due to their strong connection to not only each other but to food as well. Mano Bella is also appropriate because much of what they offer is handmade: breads, sausage, porchetta, tarali (which goes great with pimento cheese by the way, since we're in the South), and pasta. Madison and Raffaele are committed to sourcing local and bringing that to your table.  

The pasta making station at Mano Bella in Charlotte, NC.
The pasta making station at Mano Bella in Charlotte, NC.

After speaking with Madison and Raffaele, as well as getting a tour of the kitchen, I sat down and enjoyed a double espresso with a few desserts. Of course, I purchased many items, but the one I am most excited about is the Carolina Gold Risotto mix. Carolina Gold Rice is a staple of South Carolina that dates back to the 1600s! Being a Low Country Bella, many of my recipes are a fusion of my Southern and Italian roots. I will be sharing this risotto recipe soon!

More information on Mano Bella is available on their website and they're on Instagram @manobellaartisanfoods

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