There's been a bit of spring cleaning done at Isabella Restaurant and Bar, and one of the results is not only the change to a new menu, but a new executive chef that's determined to switch up the flavors of the restaurant.
Louie Agostini, who grew up in Taylor, has brought his contemporary American flavor to the Wilkes-Barre eatery, using ingredients from local farms and bringing in fresh fish from Honolulu Seafood Company in Hawaii daily, to start.
“We are very excited to welcome [him] to Isabella Restaurant and Bar,” said Brian McCann, general manager of Isabella. “Louie is an extremely talented chef who has the ability to take a commonly loved dish and spice it up a notch in flavor and appeal.”
Agostini, who has cooked in restaurants since the age of 16, is a 2009 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh and has trained under members of Pittsburgh's Olympic Culinary Team. He was the Executive Sous Chef of the Pittsburgh Chop House and was awarded the gold medal in the Pittsburgh Steel City Chef Competition in 2010.
“I want to continue to learn and provide the best quality product that I can for the people in this area,” Agostini said of his new position at Isabella.
There has been a certain perception about the restaurant that he said the establishment would like to shy away from.
“It was a lot more pasta-based, and a lot of people considered us more of an Italian restaurant, but we're trying to get away from that. We want to bring in a lot of different styles to meet the needs of everyone.
“In this area, there are many Italian, Polish, and German influences, and we're trying to combine all of those elements.”
Some new features offered are quinoa salad with bell peppers, a southwestern grilled salmon sandwich featuring king salmon in a chili marinade, pork rib chop with caramelized apples, and fresh vegetable spring rolls.
Agostini said he's a pasta guy, but even then he doesn't do things on an average scale.
“We try to put a twist on everything that we do. We don't just do standard gnocchi, standard pasta; we do sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin in the winter time, things like that.”
In an ongoing effort to support local business, Isabella's sorbet and ice cream come from Blue Ribbon Dairy in Exeter and, recently, the restaurant is employing the growing skills of the folks at Rowlands Pennsylvania Produce in Falls.
“It's wonderful because they actually grow what we ask them to grow,” Agostini said of the business that grows hydroponic, pesticide-free lettuce. “If we want baby red romaine or green romaine or spring mix, they can do it.”
No matter what's on the menu, Isabella's just wants to make sure it's enjoyable for everyone who walks into the restaurant.
“I am very pleased with the direction he has taken our menu and the quality of food that will be served,” McCann said of Agostini. “Louie has included dishes everyone, no matter the age or dietary restriction, will surely enjoy.”