If you are looking for a home grown restaurant then look no further. The Butterfly Bistro is one of those kinds of restaurants that you just feel good about supporting. We root for their success because it feels good to see the little guy succeed. But as much as we want to support them they must meet and exceed our expectations because life is too short to eat mediocre food!
Owner and chef, Diana Simmons always wanted to open up her own restaurant and she has done just that and has done it with a style and grace that she has done in everything in her life. She actually wanted to open up a restaurant with her mother who was the inspiration for her love of cooking. But her mother’s early on set dementia and illness cut that duo dream from becoming reality.
From the young age of ten Diana would be in the kitchen cooking “side by side” with her mother. “Some of my fondest memories growing up were of my mother and me in the kitchen. We would just talk and she would show me how, how to cook the family traditions of recipes from my mother’s Italian mother and Irish father. They literally came off of the boat.”
Diana went on to say that she was raised in New Jersey and big family Italian dinners were the norm on Sundays. Many of Butterfly Bistro’s daily specials are a result of those family dinners found on old note cards and scraps of paper passed on from her grandmother to her mother to Diana. You can always tell when you go to a family restaurant, the food is generational. It just tastes like it was cooked on your own stove. If you like “real” food, not just something provided by a restaurant food distributor then you will love the Butterfly Bistro because only real food is served.
The restaurant is located in the historical Dixieland neighborhood of Lakeland on the corner of South Florida Avenue
and Belmar next to Petals Flowers and Gifts. Diana named her little gem of a dream, the Butterfly Bistro where she serves up a simple but refined menu of homemade sandwiches, salads, soups, entrees and made from scratch desserts.
With prices that make you wonder how she can stay in business, you will find some of Diana’s favorite bistro recipes such Roasted Turkey BLT with basil pesto on a baguette for just $6.95 and Grilled Herb Chicken with lemon caper sauce and Swiss on a sourdough roll also for just $6.95.
She also has beautiful fresh salads that look like works of art such as Spinach Salad with feta, walnuts, dried cranberries and yogurt garlic dressing for $6.95 and a Chopped Salad with Romaine, roast turkey, bacon, gorgonzola cheese, egg, tomato, avocado, sunflower seeds and her special house vinaigrette dressing at $6.95.
Diana’s bold mid-life career change has taken her from the corporate world back into the kitchen doing what she loves to do best; serve customers as if they were family just like her mother did.
Diana thought her dream was lost forever until last year while in Los Angeles visiting family. She recalls and says, “I saw all of the mom and pop restaurants on every corner. And I remember it was July 4th when I went into a bakery called, Sweet Arleen’s. I started talking to the owner. She told me she left her banking career because she was just tired of all of the stuff, and baking was what made her happy and that is what she was going to do!”
It was on that day that Diana started thinking and the planning of her own dream, the dream that she thought was lost forever. “I saw in The Ledger about grants that were available for people that wanted to bring businesses into the Dixieland area. Up to $15,000 of matching money was available for people that qualified. So I started putting my business degree, my corporate world experience, my frugal single mom make it determination and my love to cook into reality with a business plan and menu, and never looked back!”
You see to Diana and many of us, the kitchen is the gathering place of the home. It is where family and friends come together not only just to enjoy a good meal, but it is where days are shared, laughter and smiles are born and where tough times are comforted with hugs and of course dessert. The kitchen is the heart of a home. “Just like my mother, I love to cook and I love how food brings people together. This is the kind of place that I dreamed of…and I think my dream is becoming reality. What more could I want. I am blessed beyond belief.”