River City Six – Nicole Jesse
Meet Nicole Jesse, general manager and co-owner of La Casa Pizzaria.
Tell us a little about your business.
Founded by my grandparents Joe and Nellie Patane in 1953, we continue to be family owned and operated by third and fourth generations. We make a unique thin crust pizza and our signature pizza features freshly grated Romano cheese and ground beef that is seasoned and cooked in house. We use original family recipes for our pasta sauces, salad dressings, desserts, and other house specialties. Besides dine-in service and take-out, we also have a party room, do limited caterings, and have a Food Truck.
How did you get started in the business?
I started working at La Casa when I was 14 as a hostess. Our mom was looking to retire, so my brother Joel and I were offered an opportunity to become owners in 1985. The rest is history, as they say!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
Our industry has faced many challenges over the years, but I would have to say that the current COVID pandemic has been the biggest. It’s added health risks, anxiety, and greater uncertainty that must be addressed for both staff and customers.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
I was inducted into the Omaha Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2013. It was very humbling and special to me because I was chosen by my peers. My grandfather Joe was inducted in 2009, so I’m honored to share that accomplishment with him!
Tell us a little about your family.
John and I married in 1986. We met while both working at La Casa back in 1978 and started dating in 1981. (I’ll let you do the math.) We have three children: Nick, Madeleine, and Genevieve. We welcomed two more to the family last year when Leah Svingen married Nick and Joel Warden married Madeleine.
What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
Becoming a mother. My view of life and the world changed instantly, in a very good way.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
I love to garden and care for many houseplants. I also love to bake.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know?
Baseball is my favorite sport.
What is your favorite quote or the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Positively impacting even one person’s life is a life well-lived.” Another good one is: “What other people say about you is none of your business.”
If you could choose only one descriptive word to be remembered as, what would it be?
What local nonprofit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why?
John and I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity because we are passionate about safe, affordable housing. I am also on the Board for Mercy High School (my alma mater) because I care about education for women. Through La Casa, I have also been able to support local organizations that provide food security.
What is your favorite book or the last good book you read?
I really like historical fiction and non-fiction. I recently read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be?
My grandparents. I was pretty young when they were still alive, and I’d love to ask them about their lives back in Sicily and early days in the U.S.
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