Alice’s voice rings out as she arrives for her 9 a.m. shift. She’s learning Italian phrases—this one means “beautiful restaurant”—because she’s so excited to be working as the new support employee at Tutta Bella in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Alice is the first Northwest Center client to be hired by Tutta Bella to work at one of their five neighborhood restaurants in and around Seattle. Her job is to prepare the restaurant before the lunch rush, ensuring that tables are set up, silverware is in place, and floors are clean.
“It’s a perfect match for me because I love eating Italian pizza and assisting in getting the place ready to open, so the cooks can just concentrate on making delicious pizzas,” Alice says. “It’s so much fun to work here because it gives me my independence and I get paid for what I like to do.”
“Alice has been here only a week and is already making a huge impact reducing the workload for the other employees,” says general manager Lindsey Rose. “She’s amazing, and the staff appreciates her big time.”
Though Alice is the first Northwest Center client to find employment at Tutta Bella, the restaurant has hired people with disabilities from the very beginning through their Supported Employees program.
“Every Tutta Bella location employs people with disabilities, which has been incredibly successful for the participants, customers, and the restaurants,” says founder and owner Joe Fugere. “Employees not only deserve to be employed just like everyone else, but they’ve greatly enriched each or our restaurants. Our employees with disabilities have a high retention rate, arrive on time, and work hard to get the job done.”
“They meet our needs and we meet their needs, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” says Rose. “Our restaurant reflects the world we live in and Alice is part of it. We are honored to have her here.”
Says Fugere, “My hope has always been to inspire other businesses to implement similar hiring practices.”