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Bellino Pasta & Cafe in Hillsboro offers fresh food, friendly setting

PHOTO BY BETTY CAMPBELL - Benito Omana Moro and his wife, Carina Rodriguez Gutierrez stand in front of their Hillsboro restaurant, Bellino Pasta & Cafe.Some little boys dream of being a quarterback or an astronaut.

Benito Omana Moro spent his childhood dreaming of wearing chef whites and owning his own restaurant. His dream became a reality eight months ago when he opened Bellino Pasta & Cafe at 2401 N.E. Cornell Road in Hillsboro.

“I started cooking when I was little,” Moro said. “I was cooking in Mexico, cooking with toys and making food with toys.” His mother passed down her culinary skills, and young Benito carefully studied her ways.

When he was able to come to the United States in 1991, he brought two things with him: his wife, Carina Rodriguez Gutierrez, and his lifelong dream.

Within a week of moving to Oregon in 1992, Moro had secured his first job, washing dishes in a Portland restaurant. He then took on a second job and at times, a third, in order to provide for his family.

Though he started at the bottom of the restaurant industry, Moro worked hard and was quickly promoted from washing dishes to prep, creating vegetables and dressings. He then learned to make fresh pasta. He learned quickly, he said, because “when you do something you like, you learn so fast.”

After 15 years at the same restaurant, Moro knew it was time to make his dream a reality. Realizing that the competition was tough in Portland, he looked to other cities.

“Why not (an Italian restaurant) in Hillsboro?” he said. Indeed, within a few weeks of opening, he realized that “the people in Hillsboro are very nice.”

Moro’s philosophy is simple — sourcing good quality food will bring customers back time and time again.

“I try to find organic foods, like tomatoes and vegetables and salad,” he said. His specials are all created with house-made pasta. He also creates his own sauces from fresh ingredients.

When Bellino first opened, Moro did it all. He often waited tables, cooked and cleaned simultaneously. He recently added two employees, which allows him to talk with his customers.

Aside from cooking, Moro said, chatting with customers is his favorite part of restaurant ownership.

As he stops by each table, offering newcomers a free salad or a gelato, Moro describes the dishes and how they are made, and customers often give him input. That information has helped to shape the Bellino menu.

“I like to treat customers like family, like they are in their own house,” he said.

His favorite dish on the menu is not the rack of lamb, or one of the many seafood options. It’s the humble meatballs that Moro personally crafts each day. “I cook everything with love,” he said.

Gutierrez enjoys working side by side with her husband and the couple hopes that one day, one of their two children might inherit the business. She is very proud of her spouse, and how his willingness to learn has given them this opportunity.

“When I bring the food to the customers, everyone says, ‘It is so beautiful and it smells so good,’” she said.

Gutierrez hopes that people in Hillsboro will come in and give her family a chance to serve them. “Some people are scared, they don’t want to try a new thing. But come in and try. It’s good food.”


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