Leigh Love & Jesse Thomas at PizzaAmore's current location. (Photo by Trish Morgan)
Luck was on her side in 2004 when Leigh Love, owner of Mount Dora's popular PizzAmore, offered Jesse Thomas a job in her first restaurant, 5th Avenue Cafe in downtown Mount Dora. The cafe was ahead of its time in Lake County, offering quality gourmet fare with fresh organic ingredients.
Thomas was a recent high school graduate working at Easterseals Camp Challenge in Sorrento before stepping in as the prep person making salads and side dishes at the popular restauant that opened in 2003. He held several increasingly responsible positions and learned the business along the way. When the executive chef left to pursue other challenges, Love promoted Thomas to the position. It's been the perfect match ever since.
In 2009, Love opened PizzAmore. The new endeavor incorporated all their experience from the gourmet cuisine of 5th Avenue Cafe and translated it into a separate warm and casual eatery. Today the kitchen dishes out classic Italian dishes, famous garlic knots, fresh pasta and salads, as well as pizza that was voted the best in Mount Dora.
Although Love has many favorite dishes on the menu, her favorite pie is the Spinach Fresca pizza. "It’s a wild blend of taste that pops in your mouth, and you feel really good eating it, too, with all that fresh spinach!" said Love.
As a former professional in corporate finance and marketing at GE Capital and Apple, Love has used her business savvy to ensure the success of PizzAmore. She and Thomas, now her business partner, are working together to expand his operational and administrative knowledge of the business.
Love and Thomas in front of PizzAmore on 5th Avenue. (Photo by Trish Morgan)
"Jesse and I are like yin & yang. We balance each other in so many ways – we complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses." said Love about the cornerstone of their business partnership.
Their mutual goal is to put fresh, really tasty food on the table at a reasonable price. "A family can dine at PizzAmore and not break the bank, and the pizza gourmand can come and enjoy some really fresh, innovative, delicious meals," said Love about what diners experience in the historic home they purchased on 5th Avenue in 2015 and fully renovated to accommodate the growing restaurant.
The larger location now affords guests ample parking, a significantly larger bar that serves wine and craft beer, and outdoor dining. PizzAmore is located at 722 E. 5th Avenue.
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