By Max Bowenemail@example.com
It’s no secret that Leo Raneri was very dedicated to seeing Bella Sarno succeed—indeed, he was there at all hours, working with the staff or getting prepped for the next day.
But beyond this devotion to one of the most popular establishments in North Attleborough, Leo was a man who was focused on family and community. Leo passed away on June 16 at the age of 52. His wife Julie described him as a down to Earth person who lived by his integrity. Prior to running Bella Sarno, Leo worked for 27 years in the financial sector. He and Julie had talked about opening a restaurant after retirement, but the desire made that dream happen sooner than planned.
“He was so excited and so passionate,” she said. “He loved all the guests, loved talking to them and getting to know everybody.”
When the two purchased the restaurant four years ago, it was a family matter, with Leo, Julie, and their sons Anthony and Nicholas working there. Julie said Leo was at the restaurant “24-7,” and remembers those days as a lot of fun. Julie worked her day job in addition to Bella Sarno and would sometimes head there after she got home. The two would have dinner there, what she called their “date night.”
“I was exhausted, but I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
As an owner, Leo expected the best of people, as he expected it of himself. He would ask that of all the employees, or as they became known as, “The Bella Family.” When the pandemic caused businesses to close, Julie said that Leo kept in touch with the entire staff, checking in to see how they were doing. When they had to lay the staff off, she said Leo apologized for having to do it, and would call again when needed.
“He would offer them to come in and make extra money,” said Julie.
Julie recalled a time when during a slow night, one of the servers said she had lost her $50 tip. The staff searched the restaurant, and soon after Leo told her that he had found it. On the drive home, Julie asked Leo where he found the tip and he said that he didn’t, that he felt bad and gave her his own money.
“What sets him apart is he cared for his employees,” she said.
As busy as Leo was, Julie said that he always made time to give back to the community. In his office are photos from community events and letters of thanks from different organizations. Leo donated gift cards, space, and meals to sports events such as Gridiron Football and hosting cooking shows at senior communities. Baseball and football were his favorite sports—a little ironic, Julie said with a laugh, as he played hockey and baseball growing up. Leo donated food to events like the Plainville Teacher Appreciation Week and many others. After his passing, Julie said she was surprised by how many called or stopped by to offer condolences.
“They talked about how a great guy he was,” she said. “You can tell how you live your live by the amount of people who come and pay their respects. It was overwhelming how many people loved him.”