2022 Tastemakers: Isabella Bonello of Three Bites Bakery

Bonello, the daughter of Filipino and Italian immigrants, opened her first retail bakery in March. Just getting the doors open took grit.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Isabella Bonello, owner of Three Bites Bakery, in her shop on Mount Vernon Avenue in Columbus

On the wall of Isabella Bonello’s home kitchen is a prescient piece of needlework stitched a few years ago that reads, “Everything is [F***ing] Fine.” A professional baker whose resume includes Pistacia Vera, Bonello was laid off from her corporate baking job at L Brands because of the pandemic. She then took her side hustle, Three Bites Bakery, full-time, creating her distinctive pastries out of a workaday home oven. In March, the daughter of Filipino and Italian immigrants opened her first retail bakery on Mount Vernon Avenue. But just getting the doors open took grit. “Man, has it tested every single ounce of everything that I have,” she says.

Baptism by Fire

Bonello discovered the storefront in the spring of 2021. She thought, somewhat naively, she’d open that June. But then construction that had already been completed had to be ripped out —it wasn’t up to code for commercial purposes. When Bonello finally submitted her plans to the city for review last August, she was met with “roadblock after roadblock,” she says. Her paperwork was accidentally filed under “residential”—prompting more delays and fees. “I kept being told, ‘Don’t reach out to the city. Don’t ruffle their feathers.’ … I’m not the kind of person that will just complain and do nothing about it,” she says. Bonello trusted her gut and contacted City Council President Shannon Hardin, who helped break through the red tape. “It made me want to run for City Council,” she says.

A Deferred Dream Fulfilled

Through determination (and Muay Thai to relieve stress), Three Bites opened nine months later than planned. “This has been my dream since I was a teenager,” says Bonello, who grew up cooking with her dad. She had tried being a line cook for a while but fell in love with baking. “I love the creativity. I love making people happy with food,” she says.

A sampling of pastries available at Three Bites Bakery

At Three Bites, you won’t find the typical muffins and croissants. Instead, Bonello offers a diverse selection that often nods to her family’s heritage. Rotating offerings include Filipino biko and ube pandesal, Italian-style Nutella cornetto, sweet Breton pastries called kouign-amann, Chinese pineapple buns and more. The bakery also offers breads, sandwiches, custom cakes and coffee from Upper Cup.

Everything may not be 100 percent fine, but Bonello is pushing forward and shares this advice: “Everything you’ve ever heard about the first year being open, at least for me, is absolutely true. It’s tough,” she says. “Make sure you are surrounding yourself with good people and a good support system. Reach out to people and make connections. You will absolutely need to lean on them to get you through the most difficult times.”

Three Bites Bakery

999 Mount Vernon Ave., King-Lincoln Bronzeville, 614-372-5930

A fruit tart from Three Bites Bakery

About Isabella Bonello

Age: 32

Hometown: “All over, but we moved to Columbus in 2000.”

Soundtrack while baking: “I really like listening to lo-fi music. Or Latin/salsa music. Or K-pop. ... I’m kinda all over the place.”

Local food she craves: “Bonifacio or Koso absolutely any day, any time, any place”

Something Columbus needs: “I would love to see more small, family-run businesses reach the levels of success that the larger restaurant groups have. We just don’t have the same kind of funding.”

Isabella Bonello is one of nine “Tastemakers” profiles in the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.