Paula grew up in a New Jersey Italian-American neighborhood near New York City. It was through her Sicilian heritage and and close family that Paula fostered warm memories surrounded by wonderful food. Her mom loved to cook and always shared her table with extended family and friends.
Paula's degree is in education, leading her to teach in New Jersey and later in Iowa. In 1980 she moved to the Kalona area and became a patient advocate for a home care company often having to spend her days on the road. On her travels through the small towns of the Midwest she visited many gift shops and restaurants, cultivating a dream to one day open her own restaurant.
After the death of her husband in 2000, she decided that a career change was in in order; it was time to start a gift and home décor shop. The timing was right, as the old Kalona Hotel was for sale. The first floor with its tall ceilings and windows and vintage wooden floors was just the look she was after. With the help of many good friends and family, the old hotel was transformed into Tuscan Moon Gift Studio.
The first day of business was June 10, 2002. The community embraced the new shop and even accepted a business that sold wine. Wine sales soared and provided Paula a direction to pursue. In 2004 the outdoor wine garden was opened.
With the help of great friends, an accepting community, and entertainment, Tuscan Moon Wine Garden was a hit. The year 2004 was great not only for business, but for Paula personally. That summer a gentleman visiting family in Kalona came to Tuscan Moon to look at the wine selection. That man was Warren Miller.
It wasn’t long before Paula and Warren realized they were meant for each other. Warren had grown up in Kalona and had lived on both coasts from Westlake Village, California to Long Island, New York. Coincidentally, he also had the dream of someday owning and operating a restaurant in the Midwest. Warren not only had big dreams, he had a perfect business background as the former director of stores for a retail chain.
Next came the transformation from gift shop to dining establishment. Warren and Tuscan Moon’s first chef, John Olson, turned a small room the size of a closet into the kitchen. The outdoor deck and patio would become the dining area. With an amazing summer of outdoor dining and live entertainment, Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth was born. The gift shop was now on the second floor of the old hotel, and the main floor was transformed into the inside dining room.
Paula and Warren embraced the original Kalona Hotel, outfitting it with antique booths found in an old warehouse. The original wood floors, exposed brick, tall ceilings, bring warmth and ambiance to Tuscan Moon.
Today, there are several dining areas. The bright-colored bistro room next to the main dining room houses a walnut bar with casual seating. The main dining room has exposed brick and Tuscan art. The outdoor patio is a friendly meeting place with dining tables and a sit-down pub.
The upstairs gift shop is now a thing of the past, replaced by a dining room and lounge appropriately called “Top of the Moon.” Tables set in front of tall windows allow guests to enjoy each season as they feast on Tuscan’s wonderful food.
Change is what keeps business fresh, so in the fall of 2005 a new kitchen was built. Warren continues to add to the wine selection of 150+ wines from all over the world. In the summer of 2006, a full bar of top-shelf liquors was added.
Warren ’s touch with flowers has prompted folks to wonder if the patio is really a flower shop. The vine-draped garden entrance has been enjoyed by all, especially those who have been lucky enough to have their wedding reception there. In fact, Paula and Warren held their own wedding reception in the garden and atmosphere of Tuscan Moon in September of 2005. Live music, great food, beautiful surrounding—that’s Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth.