Jean Feehan, the new owner of La Tavola Restaurant and Bar. Photo by Don Manley

Jean Feehan is carrying on a family tradition by becoming the new owner of La Tavola Restaurant and Bar.

“My family has always been involved in restaurants,” said the long-time Marco resident who purchased the Winterberry Drive eatery from its founders, well-known local restaurateurs Guy and Lisa Verdi, in October. “My grandparents had one and my brother had one in Minneapolis.”

In fact, family is a key element at La Tavola, where a number of Feehan’s relatives are lending their talents to the operation, including her parents, Bill and Barbara Feehan, her husband, Manny Barrios, and their son. Ross. A niece, Kendall Feehan, a sister, Debbie Siakel, and Siakel’s husband Rich, are also involved in helping things flow smoothly.

“My mother’s Italian and she does all of my homemade desserts,” she said.

La Tavola – “the table” in Italian, features a meld of Italian dishes and American cuisine, all with a distinctive flair for lunch and dinner patrons. There are also vegetarian dishes, desserts and a diverse selection of wines, beers and spirits, along with a special menu for the bar, which features hand-crafted cocktails and live entertainment.

The restaurant’s staff remains unchanged. Leading the way in the kitchen is executive chef Erin Wyman, who has held that post since the restaurant opened in early 2015.

Feehan was also part of the La Tavola team when it debuted and worked as a hostess, running the restaurant’s “front of the house” before assuming ownership.

She said that once the deal was struck, she began familiarizing herself with the overall business, even getting hands-on experience bartending and as a server to gain experience in those roles.

Nonetheless, with so much to oversee, there is a learning curve.

“Everything is still so new,” said Feehan. “It’s one thing to work here and it’s another to run it. It’s learning the whole backside of it, inventory, everything from making sure customers are satisfied and still running the front. I’m here every day, all day long. There are certain things that are new to me and you’ve got to have a handle on everything.”

The Verdis have operated three successful restaurants on the island, including the Philly Grille, where Feehan first began working for them eight years ago. They’ve also been a post-sale presence, helping her navigate the transition to ownership.

She worked in pharmaceutical sales for 20 years before seizing the opportunity to exchange that career for one in restaurant ownership.

“I was looking for a change from pharmaceuticals and this was a nice transition,” she said. “In pharmaceuticals, everything is changing so this is a nice Chapter Two. It’s the next stage of my life. I enjoy the restaurant business. I’ve enjoyed working here and with them. So it seemed like the next step, the right thing to do.”

When asked whether any major changes were contemplated, Feehan made it clear she intends to stick with what has worked, thus far.

‘I think we’ll continue to update the menu, I’d like to see more seafood on there,” she said. “But we’ll continue on with what Guy and Lisa have built. It was successful for them and we want to continue that. We’ll continue to evolve the menu every year, just like they did every year. But for right now, everything stays the same. We believe in good food, good customer service and a great experience.”

La Tavola Restaurant and Bar is located at 961 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island. For more information, visit latavolarestaurantandbar.com or call 239- 393-4960.

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