Family, community aim of new restaurant

By Beth A. Birmingham | Feb 16, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Owners of Bella Gia's, from left, are John Hewlett, Dawn O'Brien, Susan Johnson-Moody and Jeremey Miller.

Waldoboro — When four friends decided to open a restaurant in Waldoboro Super Bowl weekend, they decided it was about creating a community atmosphere and having a place for families to relax.

Opening with a menu compiled of what customers asked for, Bella Gia's came to life Feb. 4 -- just in time for Super Bowl LI.

"Waldoboro is hurting for small busnesses and we're going to start a revolution," part-owner Jeremey Miller said Feb. 10.

He, along with fellow owners John Hewlett, Dawn O'Brien and Susan "Mom" Johnson-Moody, is leasing the space that previously housed Waldoboro House of Pizza at 1587 Atlantic Highway.

"We are excited about what's going on here," Johnson-Moody said, acknowledging that they want to touch as much of the community as they can.

Bella Gia's revamped its menu based on customer input, has upgraded its ingredients, increased its pizza size, and changed to a better cooking oil.

"We added a basil dough for homemade pita pockets and pizza," Miller said, "and suddenly it's a whole new experience."

The group took over the former restaurant Jan. 28 and spent just one week making minor renovations -- including a more Italian-style interior paint color and organizing a self-service nook beside the booth-style seating.

"There isn't a lot of competition," Miller said, adding that the restaurant is taking its time fine-tuning the menu and offerings. He said they will be adding a suggestion box in the entryway.

"We've already heard that taking the cheddar-broccoli bites off the menu was not a good idea," he said, noting they will be added back to the offerings.

Miller and his business partners had much praise for their vendors -- including Dennis Paper, Coca-Cola and Camden National Bank.

"Even before we made an offer on the business, they started coming to us with ideas," Miller said, adding it has helped them tweak the presentation, decor and service.

Each person has their own role in the business, Miller said.  "We all talk about it, but it's Dawn's kitchen, dining room and process -- she's always right."

Although O'Brien worked for the previous owner, she said they are all still learning how to revamp the business and connect with the people they all know in the community.

With the recent snowstorms, Bella Gia's was the only business open on several occasions for public-service crews, plow drivers, etc. to get a hot meal.

Miller said a pinnacle of one of the days was a prior customer who had a bad experience at another restaurant and came to Bella Gia's for a try.

"She sat for a couple hours just sipping her coffee, enjoying her meal and watching the news," he said.

The four aim to purchase the facility in six or so months and add an ice cream parlor in the patio area.

Bella Gia's is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. all other days.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at


Bella Gia's
Jeremey Miller talks about the offerings at the new Bella Gia's in Waldoboro. (Video by: Beth Birmingham)
The former Waldoboro House of Pizza is now community-based Bella Gia's. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A temporary sign lets the community know that Bella Gia's is now open at 1587 Atlantic Highway in Waldoboro. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
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