Family Connection

Bella Luna Head Chef Alfio Gulisano has had plenty of influences in his culinary career: the Italian school where he grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the culture of his Italian grandparents, and working for a five-star chef at an Italian restaurant in Greensboro, N.C., to name a few.

However, his first culinary influence was his mother, whom he grew up watching cook for his immediate and extended family.

“My mother had so much love cooking for our family, that I got that from her — the idea of making someone happy through food,” he says.

Perhaps that’s why Bella Luna Owner Harry Stephens calls Gulisano, 32, the best fit he’s had with a chef in his 25 years in restaurants. Like Gulisano, Bella Luna also draws on Italian tradition and family heritage, featuring many family recipes from Stephens’ own grandparents, who immigrated to the United States from Italy after World War I.

Gulisano and Stephens work together to create the dishes on Bella Luna’s authentic Italian menu, which focuses on cuisine from alternating regions of the country. Stephens orders as many of the restaurant’s ingredients directly from Italy as possible.

It’s important to have a balance on the menu between familiar Italian favorites and more creative dishes, Gulisano emphasizes. “We have clientele that want spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna, and those that want to get out of their comfort zone. I cook for everyone,” he says.

Gulisano’s culinary career started at age 18 in Buenos Aires, and he first took over as a head chef at age 20. He left home for the United States in 2000 and moved to the Cincinnati area in January 2009 after connecting with Stephens about the head chef position at Bella Luna.

Gulisano’s co-workers often note his passion and intensity in the kitchen. “I put everything I have in a given moment. That’s how I approach food,” he says. “When people enjoy your food, it brings you a lot of satisfaction.”

— Lindsay Kottmann

Best Thai Dining

Enjoy Thai cuisine at these local favorites from around the region. The fresh flavors are sure to please, no matter what your spice level.

Lemon Grass, Hyde Park

This family-owned Thai restaurant serves up something special, whether you’re dining in or ordering out. Lemon Grass is a neighborhood favorite known for its serene atmosphere.

Mai Thai, Florence

Mai Thai offers a fusion of authentic Thai flavors presented with modern style. The master chef prepares favorites such as Mai Thai Chicken, as well as a selection of sushi rolls, salads, soups, drinks and desserts. Guests can dine-in or carry out.

Sweet Basil, Crestview Hills

Sweet Basil boasts an attentive staff and friendly atmosphere. Chefs create a traditional Thai menu with a large degree of customization. At the sushi bar, choose from a variety of fresh sushi and a long list of specialty rolls.

Teak Thai Cuisine, Mount Adams
Teak’s menu offers authentic Thai cuisine and beautifully arranged sushi and sashimi. Enjoy the extensive menu at the sushi bar and lounge located on the first level, or enjoy one of Teak’s three floors or outdoor patio.

Thai Namtip, White Oak

Thai Namtip offers lunch specials for $6 and $7, as well as chef combinations and entrees of fish and duck and several vegetarian options. The atmosphere is casual and family-friendly.

Wild Ginger Asian Bistro, Hyde Park

Wild Ginger, just a short distance from Hyde Park Square and Rookwood Commons, serves up a wide range of Thai food and sushi in a modern atmosphere. Dine in at the sushi bar or hibachi grill, in one of the elegant dining rooms, or carry out from the extensive menu.

— Taryn Kukucka