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|The Scout Guide|
Look for our Feature in The Scout Guide magazine and on the website.
The Scout Guide (TSG) is a network of city guides that highlight the best of local in each of the locations we cover. We showcase excellent artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, and independent businesses in a variety of ways: A beautiful print publication, inspiring and informative editorial content published daily online, and social media platforms. VISIT THEIR WEBSITE
The Belltree Tavern was featured on their website on October 1st.
MEET CON O’MAHONEY OF BELL TREE TAVERN
We sat down with Southern Pines native Con O’Mahoney to learn more about his passion for food and the food business he has (literally) grown up in.
TSG: YOU KNOW A LOT ABOUT WINE! WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?
CON: I enjoy wines from every country but I prefer Italian wines. Go figure! I grew up with the Gironda’s, (owners of Vito’s Pizza and Raffael’s) and worked in their restaurants. Also, my brother in-law spoiled me with a number of great Italian wines. His favorite is one I am partial to: the grape from the Piedmont region in Italy called Nebbiolo. This region is most famous for Barolo’s, “The wine of Kings and the King of wines.”
CON: The restaurant business is something that if you are not ready to devote yourself to it, you will probably fail. The learning curve has no end point, and you can guarantee that something will always break down, whether it be equipment or your staff. You must have a strong supporting cast that starts with your spouse and family. Also, I love people and I love making people happy. I get the most out of giving our guests at Bell Tree a completely satisfying experience. Making my guests happy keeps me motivated.
TSG: TELL ME ABOUT GROWING UP HERE IN SOUTHERN PINES.
CON: I have lived in Southern Pines since I was 1 ½ years old. I love Southern Pines and the surrounding communities. My mother raised 3 boys in this town and thankfully we all have turned out pretty good. I felt like there was no better place to raise my family and operate a business that I love. There have been many opportunities to go elsewhere but in the end the people, the quality of life, and my family were the most important factors in staying right here. We have the best of everything: we’re close to the beach, mountains, plus we are within easy range of the bigger cities north or south. Honestly, just staying home and enjoying the sandhills area is pretty nice.
TSG: WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL DAY OFF?
CON: A day off? Well I am not sure that happens often for me, but I would most likely be at home with my wife and kids. That is peace for me!
TSG: WHO WERE YOUR LOCAL MENTORS?
CON: My mentors would be the Gironda’s. I think Raffaelle is the only certified chef but Vito, Frank, and Giovanni all are chefs in my experience, and have taught me more about food and business than anyone could ever learn in school. They are all top notch. And I’ll tell you that I have never had Oso Bucco in any restaurant, anywhere that could rival Franks! I would put him against any chef in the country when it comes to that dish.
TSG: IS YOUR MENU CHANGING AS THE FALL SEASON APPROACHES?
CON: As the weather cools in the fall, I like to play around with soup recipes. Some are down-home favorites and some are trial and error from recipes I come across during the year. I also like to add a bone-in steak to the menu because people have heartier appetites in the fall. But we have favorites that stay on the menu no matter the season. Our guests like knowing that the familiar tastes will be here when they’re ready.
TSG: WHAT’S YOUR BEST TIP FOR ENJOYING A MEAL AT HOME?
CON: Wine and Cheese. There is no better way to start a conversation with your wife or few friends at home than to open up a nice white wine or Rose before dinner, then move to a bold red with the meal. Dinner should not be complicated. Go with fun dishes that maybe you can’t get all the time: a special cut of meat, a hearty risotto, plus a fresh vegetable or a big salad.
I love to cook at home. Nothing is better than drinking a glass of wine with my wife while cooking something good for her and the kids. But to be honest, most of the time it’s glass of wine with my wife, running around for 10 minutes with the kids, and then, CRASH. My wife is a pretty good cook and she knows if I’m coming home early to eat, I’m probably exhausted. Thank God for her! There is no way I could do it without her. That is a fact!
TSG: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL CHARITY OR EVENT?
CON: It’s impossible to pick my favorite and we support as many as we can, but I am strongly committed to the Duskin and Stevens Foundation which does the annual Beef and Beer event at The Fair Barn in Pinehurst. Chad and Dan have done an incredible job making it a very successful event that provides for the families of Special Operations service men and women. We also support a scholarship fund for Pope John Paul School. I am honored to be a part of helping them raise money. We also are in full support of The Sandhill’s Children’s Center. The children there need all the support we can give them and we feel very lucky to to be in a position to offer our help.
TSG: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CURRENT FOOD TRENDS?
CON: It’s funny you ask about food trends. It seems people are more and more enthralled with the presentation of food and risk missing out on true quality. I see a lot of food served that is subpar, but it’s presentation is beautiful. I see it a lot and it’s not cheap!!! I would rather pay for something that tastes good and might have less eye appeal than pay for something that is fru-fru’ed up with no flavor.
TSG: WHAT ARE THE CORE BELIEFS THAT DRIVE YOUR OWN COOKING AT HOME?
CON: Well, I believe simple and seasonal is best. Summertime should showcase strawberries, fresh slaws, local tomatoes or zucchini, grilled endive with olive oil, fresh picked basil, arugula or spinach. You choose your ingredients and make it tasty. I love a cabbage or broccoli slaw with sesame ginger dressing, or mixed vinegar (blend of 4). During the winter time I tend toward heartier meals like a potato soup with grilled salmon, sautéed spinach, red peppers and mushrooms. I also make pretty terrific beef ribs with a teriyaki glaze!