Going into their 10th year in business, the Caputo family says the secret to success is pleasing the customer.

Since opening Bell' Italia in 2002, Paola Caputo says their family-owned business has seen some changes with the economy. They have many regular customers who used to come twice a day that have had to cut back. That has forced them to find new creative ways to make their food more affordable. They've created a special lunch menu, a half-priced pasta night and coupons through email blasts.

"We just wanted to please our customers and help out where we can," Caputo said. "We know the economy is really tough."

The Caputos say they've never lost a customer, even with competitors like Spinatos Pizzeria opening up just across the street.

Matt Caputo, Paola's son, says their business is different because they are more personal.

"We are the true family restaurant," Matt said. "I'm the son, I'm here all the time. Mario is the owner and he's in the back cooking. My brother works here on the weekends. We're a true family restaurant. You can call us up and we're actually here. This pays my mortgage and feeds my family so we take it very seriously."

Matt says because they are such a small family business and they make everything fresh on their premises, it's easy to personalize any dish on the menu. Customers who are trying to avoid butter or flour can easily have it removed from their dish.

"Most chefs in the Valley are robots," Matt said. "They're told to do things certain ways and that's all they can do. A lot of places that are chains can only do things the way corporate tells you to. We can do whatever we want."

The Caputos say they've seen small improvements in the economy but they've also seen their bills rise. For now they're just trying to make eating out easier for their customers, but some day they do hope to expand.

The small restaurant located at 4909 E. Chandler Blvd. has a full liquor license but the small lobby does not allow for a full bar.

"We're being careful with the way the economy is and times are," Paola said. "We would like to have a little bit bigger place, hopefully have a bar so people can come and enjoy it, but we're not real greedy because you can't be. This is our niche."

The family's niche is with loyal customers in Ahwatukee Foothills. Matt says even when the economy was bad and they were seeing less of their regular customers, people were still talking them up and causing more new customers to come in.

The family is working on updating their website and making their Facebook page more popular. It's one more change they're making to keep up with the economy.

For more information visit bellitaliapizzeria.com or call (480) 893-1233.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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