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From Italian to Mexican cuisine in less than a week: Bella Vista to get a makeover

Bella Vista owners Jennifer and Bernardo Melecio will transition the restaurant to Vista Rio in September. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)

Bella Vista, an Italian restaurant in downtown Hastings, opened it’s doors in October 2014. Now, two years later, the owners have decided it is time for a complete makeover. They will become Vista Rio, a Mexican themed restaurant, in September.

Jennifer and Bernardo Melecio originally wanted to have Mexican cuisine when they bought the building on Main Street next to the Highway 61 bridge.

“We had three Mexican restaurants in town, so we didn’t think a fourth could make it,” Jennifer said.

That is when they decided to try Italian, but Jennifer said they have discovered that Italian is kind of a hard sell. People think of Italian as a special occasion, which she said is great, but they need to fill their restaurant on a more regular basis.

“We are not failing, but I think we can do better,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer and Bernardo decided now was the best time to change, and Mexican cuisine is what they know better. They have both worked in Mexican restaurants and Bernardo is from Mexico City, so he can bring some home recipes to the table. Bernardo is the chef and he is coming up with the new menu.

“Mexican food, that’s what I know best and that’s what we are trying to bring to Hastings and to downtown,” Bernardo said.

The Melecio’s plan to bring some uniqueness and creativity to the Mexican restaurant with weekly specials and different flavors of salsa every week. With the weekly specials, they will keep the menu size smaller than a lot of other Mexican restaurants but also bring something new to the table.

“Basically you can play with things,” Bernardo said, “experiment with things that you already have in your mind, that you wanted to have on the menu but you don’t want to put too much on the menu.”

Jennifer said they plan to serve a house salsa with roasted tomatoes. In addition, there will be a weekly salsa. The weekly salsa could range in flavors from mango to roasted corn salsa or avocado salsa and more.

Another new feature to the restaurant will be an additional patio. They are working with the city for approval, but they hope to expand the patio before the grand opening of Vista Rio. There is currently patio seating in the front of the building, but the new patio area will be closer to the back of the building and it will boast views of the river. Jennifer said they plan to have about 1,700 square feet of patio space with couches, fire pits and tables.

“Who doesn’t want to come have chips and salsa by the river?” she said.

Bella Vista will close Sept. 4. During the closure, the Melecio’s said they will be adding some Mexican flare, switching out some decor, exchanging the plates and prepping for the grand opening. Then, on Friday, Sept. 9, Vista Rio will have its grand opening.

“I’m looking forward to being busy and having Mexican music on and just getting to meet everybody,” Jennifer said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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