When Francina Theodore left Haiti to come to America more than ten years ago, she left behind a highly desirable possession: a family owned and operated restaurant. Upon arriving in the states, she spent the next few years dreaming of opening a new restaurant here in America, similar to the one she had run in Cap-Haitien, a city of about 130,000 people on the north coast of Haiti.
Teaming up with her son, Emmanuel Beliard, Theodore quickly realized her dream with the launch of a small, take-out Haitian restaurant on Morton Street.
"It was basically my mom's idea," said Emmanuel about opening the family establishment. "Before she came to the U.S. that was what she was doing on the island. She came here with the idea to do the same thing," he added. "It took her a while but she made it happen."
Now, the mother and son pair have opened a much larger, sit-down version of the restaurant, La Belle Capoise, along an up-and-coming stretch of Morton Street, home to a string of stores and take-out restaurants. The address, 765 Morton, is situated next to a boutique clothing shop and across the street from the Morton Street commuter rail station, now being modernized as part of the MBTA's rehabilitation of the Fairmount line.
The mother and son pair credit the restaurant's rebirth in part to assistance they have received from a myriad of helping hands, including the Mattapan Economic Development Initiative, Boston Local Development Corporation, the mayor's office, Development Manager Danny Hardaway, the Boston Redevelopment Authority and a host of other city officials, who have each played a significant role in supporting and improving commercial/retail real estate and business development in Mattapan.
This chance to expand and relocate La Belle Capoise was a wonderful opportunity, specifically considering the demand the family business received from some of their most loyal clientele, who frequently, accordingly to Beliard, requested a larger space.
"The old restaurant was very small," said longtime customer Luke Laguerre. "It was not [the most appealing] inside. I used to always go there and order take out food. Now they have a beautiful space] and I really like it," Laguerre says.
The restaurant has a simple décor, accented by a colorful and comfortable atmosphere. In French, La Belle Capoise, means "beautiful woman," which explains the eatery's artistic centerpiece, a large painting of five gorgeous women painted in bold, brown colors, which hang one side of the restaurant's wall.
Each granite table is accented with bamboo mats, colorful linen and black chairs. The windows are finely dressed in a decorative combination of fuchsia and orange-colored sheer drapes.
"My wife did the decorating - she's still not done," said Danny Hardaway, owner of Final Touch, which is next door to the restaurant.
"I think this place is very nice," said Jean Robert, a customer for over eight years. "She's a good cook," emphasizes Robert. He uttered "bon bagaille" in Creole, which means "good things."
Customers are free to come in to La Belle Capoise and request whatever it is they desire to eat. "If we have it," said Beliard, "we'll make it."
One can find the daily menu posted on a small board at the front counter of the restaurant. Customers are allowed the opportunity to choose from a flavorful list of breakfast items such as foire dur (beef liver), morue (salted codfish) or Maismoulu, and an even more appetizing lunch selection, starting from the poisson (fish), which seems to be the most popular, legume (veggies & beef), boulettes (meatballs), poule, riz cole` and riz blanc (white rice).
For Luke Laguerre, the food at La Belle Capoise reminds him of his dining experience in Port-au-Prince.
"The food is awesome. I feel like I am eating the Caribbean food from back home," said Laguerre about the cuisine at the restaurant.
Hardaway, who works as a manager for the BRA's Economic Development Initiative in Mattapan in addition to his role as co-owner of the Final Touch shop, points to the restaurant's opening as the latest improvement in the neighborhood.
"Part of my job is to branch out to a lot of business people in the community," said Hardaway. "What I've done was contacted a list of people to help them to get their license bring in architects to help them get their restaurant open," added Hardaway.
"[Considering] Morton Street alone sees 33,000 cars that pass through here every day," said Hardaway, "What this [development] means is to bring this section of Mattapan a step closer to what were trying to do in making this a village."
"We want to try to capture either one to five percent of that business," stated Hardaway.
The family's expectations for the business is for "people to come in, enjoy the food at its new location," shared Beliard.
The La Belle Capoise restaurant is open seven days a week 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.