The Faces of Lake Country: Renee Burns

Meet Renee Burns! Renee, along with her husband Tom, own Bella Gusto Italian Market and Deli in Oconomowoc. The market offers fresh, traditional Italian cheeses, pizza, sandwiches, wine and more. Renee is a mother and grandmother, and has lived in Lake Country since she was six years old.

While talking with us, Renee reminisced with us about growing up in Hartland. She fondly recalls Jackson’s, a five and dime store in downtown Hartland, located across the street from where Palmer’s Steak House is now. On the way home from school with friends, the group would frequently stop by Jackson’s to get penny candy. 

To Renee we say ‘Grazie!’ for taking a few minutes to talk with us about your life and love of Lake Country. 

Question: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
Answer: “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 15 years old, starting at the Back Bay Bar on Lake Keesus. I’ve also worked at Fishbones and Zin, and I married one of my Fishbones customers.”

Q. What is your favorite restaurant in Lake Country, and what do you love there?
A. “Fishbones. Their fish tacos are amazing, and the Ragin’ Cajun pasta has a cream sauce and the dish is to die for.”

Q. Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in Lake Country?
A. “Jesse Souza, the owner of Fishbones and Zin. He taught me everything I need to know about food service and the business end of things. Jesse is by far one of the most honest, giving entrepreneurs that I’ve ever met. He never forgot where he came from, and is very loyal to his employees.”

Q. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?  And why?
A.”I’m torn between the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, one region is known for its food, and the other for its wine.”

Q. What is your favorite movie?
A. “‘A Star is Born, I love the original movie and the romance that my mom saw in it, as it was one of her favorites, as well.”

Q. What is something on your bucket list?
A. “To travel to Italy and to be a great grandma.”

Q. What is your favorite music? Name three bands you would like to see dead or alive.
A. “I love Italian opera and recently saw Andrea Bocelli in Las Vegas. I’d also like to see Chicago, ELO and Elvis.”

Q. Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch?  Why?  Where in Lake Country would you have lunch?
A. “I’d love to sit down with Matthew McConaughey. He is one of the deepest, most profound people. Google his speeches, you won’t be able to put your phone down. He’s inspirational, he encourages people to look inside of themselves, be true to themselves. He’s wise beyond his years. I’d enjoy lunch either pool side at his mansion in Hollywood, or at Bella Gusto.”

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A. “Spending winters down south with my wonderful hubby, and summer here with my parents, kids and grandkids.”

Q. Even for friends or family, what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A. “This isn’t at all what I imagined doing. I have an eye for interior design, and I’m a big fan of Joanna Gaines. If I could do it all over again, I’d probably be staging homes.”

Q. What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word home?
A. “Warmth, family and chaos.”

Q. If you had a full time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose?Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
A. “I would keep Nate, my chef at Bella Gusto, forever!”

The Faces of Lake Country is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured, please click the button below.

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