Fontana’s: The Cusine of A Community

If you’re looking for a unique blend of cuisines in our area, look no further than Fontana’s in Fort Payne. Fontana’s offers a fusion of Italian, Greek, and Southern dishes on their ever-evolving menu. Personal favorites of mine include the Spanakopita plate (a mediteranean pastry stuffed with cheese and spinach and served with Greek Potatoes and Greek Salad), the Lasagna Roll, and the Ahi Tuna Appetizer, and if you’re in the mood for something sweeter, you can’t go wrong with the Fried Oreos.

Linda Fontana, owner of Fontana’s, says she decided to open the restaurant in 2015 after seeing a need for a different type of food in our area:

“One of the reasons why I started the restaurant is that we did not have an Italian or Greek restaurant in the area, and we were forced to go to Chattanooga, Gadsden, or Rome to enjoy that type of cuisine. I enjoy mediterranean food, and it’s very healthy. You get a lot of leaner meats and fewer saturated oils and processed foods. In our society I believe we need to have access to more healthy choices.”

Linda knows her way around a kitchen as well as anyone. She has spent her life dedicated to cooking and making sure every customer leaves satisfied:

“It takes a special kind of crazy to want to work in a kitchen. I’ve been doing it professionally for 42 years, and I’ve been cooking since I was big enough to stand up on a chair and help my mother and grandmother cook. I love it so much that I went back to school at the age of 50 to get a culinary arts degree.”

All of this hard work has certainly paid off. Fontana’s has attracted a number of dedicated and loyal customers, who come by week after week to grab lunch and chat. Restaurant critics have also taken notice of the eclectic blend of well-executed recipes. Fontana’s was recently ranked among the top ten Italian Restaurants in Alabama. For Linda, that is what running a restaurant is all about:

“For my customers to choose Fontana’s out of all the options they have, it makes me feel really good. It’s a gift that I was given to be able to cook and to be able to do whatever I need to do to satisfy my customers when they come through the door. That’s what it’s all about for me. Whether I have one or one thousand customers, they will get the same quality of food and service.”

Like any new small businesses, Fontana’s has faced it’s share of struggles and obstacles on the road to success. Linda says that one of the biggest of these has been the hefty tax bills that small businesses are always left with:

Just since I’ve been here in the past year and a half, I’ve seen small businesses come into these empty buildings and not be here more than six months before they have to shut down. From the time we open our door it’s tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, until we get tired and close our doors. If you’re not making anything but pennies, you can’t pay out dollars in taxes. Each and every one of us small business owners in town is fighting for business. After the sock mills left Fort Payne, our town just about dried up and people got used to that. Now we’re trying to get new businesses to open up downtown and fill up all the empty buildings, and I think a tax break would really help.”

Linda says that having to pay out so much in taxes is such a burden to all small businesses, but to none more so than to those that are struggling to get started. If we say that we want to support the small business community and encourage new businesses to start up and occupy downtown and main street areas, why not offer similar benefits to those that the big guys get.

“One thing that I wish our local governments would look into for small businesses is giving us a tax break. The large businesses get tax breaks anywhere they open up. Maybe they waive their state taxes for a year. Waive my state taxes for a year and save me a few thousand dollars. We don’t have millions of dollars to build a huge new building. We come downtown and rent and renovate one of the old empty buildings the best we can with what we have to work with. A lot of larger cities offer tax breaks for small businesses to help them get going and I think we should do the same here. Those tax breaks to small businesses would allow us to invest more in the building we’re renovating and invest more in our business. We could see a lot more small businesses succeeding and making our area stronger.”

According to Linda, offering the types of incentives to small businesses that we do to the big ones will lead to a vibrant and flourishing community, where we will have a much wider variety of unique small businesses to shop with, and will end up keeping so much more of our money in the community.

“New types of businesses opening up gives our community a choice, to stay here and spend their money in the Fort Payne area, instead of taking our revenue to Chattanooga, or to Etowah County, or to Georgia. We should look at what people have to travel outside of our area to get and encourage those types of businesses to open up. If we have a wider variety of options, like Greek and Italian food, right here in town, it’s so much more convenient. It saves people travel time and gas money and keeps the money here where we need it to work for us.”

You can use the Native Rewards app to support the local small business community. You get great deals and a chance to win money every time you shop with local businesses like Fontana’s!

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