Leading Central MA: Restaurateurs Enton Mehillaj and Oriola Koci
Monday, October 14, 2013
The first couple to be featured in Leading in Central MA, Enton Mehillaj and Oriola Koci are the proprietors of Livia’s Dish in Worcester. When Mehillaj moved to the United States from Albania in 1996, he decided to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant. He discovered his passion for cooking at an early age, and eventually pursed a degree at Johnson and Wales University. After cooking for major hotel chains and studying under top chefs, he opened Livia’s Dish, an Italian/Mediterranean casual dining eatery with his wife. They named the restaurant after their daughter and offer dishes prepared with the freshest seafood and meats and when possible with organic, local produce. They are on a mission to bring healthy eating ideas to the community.
SW: What made you decide to come to Worcester?
Oriola: Enton and I moved to Worcester because we had family in Worcester. We decided to build our business here because Worcester has great potential and judging for all the activities going on you can tell that is growing. We are trying to create a concept where breakfast is prepared with the same attention to detail as dinner, and a place where you can have it all: quality, service, cleanliness, value, atmosphere, and of course, great food.
SW: What led you to opening Livia’s Dish?
Enton: Cooking is my passion. Owning a restaurant has been one of my dreams. Being in the restaurant business for more than 16 years and having worked with some of the greatest chefs in the area, I decide to take that chance and open my own. Running a restaurant is hard, don't get me wrong, but for me it is the most rewarding work!
Oriola: For me it was an opportunity to utilize my skills as a business major. I love working with people. Livia's dish is all about the experience. The most important thing for us is to be able to connect in a special way with our guests. We want to touch our guests with an experience they will always remember. We both take a great deal of pride in our restaurant. Our heart and soul shows in every detail.
SW: You are celebrating your 1-year anniversary in Worcester. Can you talk a little about your goal to bring healthy eating ideas to the community?
Enton: We are all about farm-to-table. We get most of our produce from Cournoyer Vegetable farm in Paxton and other farms in Mass. Our dishes are made from scratch, this way we can cater to our customer to fit their needs. Even our fries are healthier. We peel and cut our potatoes in house before we fry them. We have partnered with Woo Food and have made some of the items in our menu Woo Food certified. This way people have a choice on the portion and sides. We pride ourselves in creating an innovative menu with items only found here, for example, Frangelico Pancakes, Nutella French Toast, Not quite Egg Benedicts etc.
SW: Can you describe one day in the life of Enton Mehillaj and Oriola Koci?
Oriola: Enton is the first one at the restaurant. He starts his day by preparing our bread from scratch, baking croissants and other items that are made fresh in house. Another morning tasks is to come up with the specials. Our specials are inspired by seasons. We try to use as much fresh items as we could possible get from our local farms. Since we have only been open for one year, we get our regulars in the morning, but also a lot of new customers that have heard about us though friends or great reviews. Enton and I try not to talk about the restaurant at home. We make it a point to meet at the restaurant in the morning and talk about our strategy to promote our specials or come up with plans for the weeks ahead. Our hand is in every detail at the restaurant. Enton is the culinary mastermind of the restaurant and I take the business side of it. We have created a great team together, but believe me, it didn’t come overnight.
SW: What is the something that few people know about you?
We don’t have a freezer or a microwave in our restaurant. Enton and I have never owned a microwave even at home. We believe that if you are that hungry and don’t have anytime, than you should eat a piece of fruit.
SW: Who or what has been your greatest influence?
Enton: My love for preparing dishes that will “wow” people. I have dedicated my life to cooking creative and original dishes that people will remember for a long time.
Oriola: My parents. They both have taught me a great work-ethic, which is the key to success in this business. My mother has taught me that in life is not about how hard you fall, but what you do to get yourself up again. She is someone that dedicated her life to her family and kids and never asked for anything in return.
SW: Any advice for husband and wife teams looking to open a business?
Oriola: Realize from the beginning that this will take a lot of time from your day. You will learn to "agree" to "disagree" but will move forward to reach the goals you have already set from the beginning. For Enton and I, what worked really well, is the fact that we have individual roles in our business. Enton takes care of the “back of the house”, my priority is the front of the house. Having an "invisible line" as we call it has helped us stay focused on what we do best.
SW: You are deeply committed to the Worcester community. What are you working on now?
Oriola: Livia’s Dish is all about the community and local businesses. We are partnering with Just Paint which is a local owned art studio where professional artists teach you how to paint. They have one of their classes at Livia's Dish every other Thursday from 5:30-6:30. We have team up to give people the opportunity to have fun while painting. We also invite local artists to play or sing at our restaurant. We are working on fundraising events for local schools and local organizations. We are always looking to host fundraising events and raising awareness for important causes.
Enton: I have worked in an appetizer menu and special drink dedicated to the painting class. You will find fried goat cheese salad, sliders etc.
SW: Any special plans for the future?
Both: Our focus right now is to continue to be creative with healthy food choices, grow our business to new levels and build a strong clientele.
“There is nothing so powerful as a new idea in the hands of a first class entrepreneur.” With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Susan Wagner has been known for driving events, initiatives, launches, and openings through her company SusanWagner PR. In this challenging economy, she has begun a new division to offer affordable start-up packages to new and emerging small businesses and non-profit organizations that include professional writing services, websites, collateral, marketing, social media grassroots outreach and regional PR campaigns.
- Leading Central MA: American Red Cross Regional CEO Lisa Piehler
- Leading Central MA: Evolve Tutoring Founder Alan Houghtaling
- Leading Central MA: Millbury Police Chief Kenny Howell
- Leading Central MA: Teaching Artist + Painter Jen Swan
- Leading In Central MA: Hospitality Entrepreneur Michael Covino
- Leading in Central MA: Activist/Philanthropist Mary DeFeudis
- Leading in Central MA: Artist + Executive Helen Sheldon Beaumont
- Leading in Central MA: Audio Journal’s Vince Lombardi
- Leading in Central MA: Bay State Savings’ Diane Giampa
- Leading in Central MA: Girls, Inc. CEO Victoria Waterman
- Women Leading Central MA: Beechwood Hotel Co-Owner Janet Birbara
- Women Leading Central Mass.: Musician/Trauma Survivor Robin Lane
- Women Leading Central Mass: Worcester City Councilor Kate Toomey
- Women Leading in Central MA: Cancer Activist Audrey Kurlan-Marcy
- Women Leading in Central MA: Healthcare Leader Janice B. Yost
- Women Leading in Central MA: South High Principal Maureen Binienda
- Women Leading in Central MA: Top Divorce Mediator Polly Tatum
- Women Leading in Central MA: Worcester Food Bank’s Jean McMurray
- Women Leading in Central MA: Workforce Consultant Amy Mosher
- Women Leading in Central Mass.: Cancer Crusader Corrie Painter
- Women Leading in Central Mass.: Child Advocate Rose Pavlov
- Women Leading in Central Mass: Broker/Activist Anna Ling Pierce
- Women Leading in Central Mass: Child Activist Dr. Teresa Rafferty
- Women Leading in Central Mass: Fitness Guru Lin Hultgren
- Women Leading in Central Mass: Realtor Cheryl Eidinger-Taylor