The tat says it all.
"b-o-l-d" across the knuckles.
Bill Sell is "bold" and he wants to share his passion for courageous cooking with Altoona.
Mirror photo by Kristy MacKaben Owners Bill and Brooke Sell pose outside Bill Sell's Bold.
The 38-year-old Altoona native and father of three and his wife, Brooke, opened Bill Sell's Bold, the tapas/Caribbean/southwestern/
Mexican restaurant in the former Michael's Cafe in downtown Altoona, two years ago.
Bill and Brooke both have "Bold" tattoos, Bill with "b-o-l-d" written on his knuckles, and Brooke with the "Bold" logo on her wrist.
Bill Sell's Bold
Address: 1413 11th Avenue Phone: 946-0301
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturdays (Closed Sundays)
Price range: $4 to $9 for lunch and $4 to $26 for dinner
Reservations: recommended for weekends, but not necessary for weekdays
Seating: 60 to 70
Atmosphere: higher end
"Bold" has become a part of their family.
Brooke designed the restaurant, which has a warm, artistic, lounge-y feel, and Bill, who is also head chef, puts his heart and soul into cooking and serving creative, healthy dishes.
Owning a restaurant has been Sell's dream since he began washing dishes at The Casino at Lakemont Park when he was 15 years old.
"That was my first real experience with a real chef," Bill said.
After his gig at the Casino, Bill became a chef at the Marriot in Johnstown, then at the U.S. Hotel in Hollidaysburg (where Brooke was waitressing at the time) and finally at Altoona Hotel, where he developed a following of customers.
He loved the life of a chef, but he wanted to own his restaurant.
So Bill left as chef of Altoona Hotel and took with him two of his fellow cooks in late 2009, attracting loyal customers to his new restaurant. Cook Bryan Irvin said he followed Bill to Bold because "It's laid back and we have a good time."
Die-hard customer Diane Vella of Hollidaysburg can't get enough of Bill's cooking. She first met him as a customer at the U.S Hotel. She and her husband, Nino, followed him to the Altoona Hotel and were ecstatic when he opened Bold.
"We just probably go there way more than anybody. I was there three times in the last 10 days," Vella said.
The Vellas enjoy the flavorful, healthy fare at Bold, which is hard to find elsewhere in town.
"I don't like to go out to eat. I don't like the grease and I don't like feeling like that. If I ate everywhere around here, I'd probably gain 20 pounds in a month," Vella said. "At Bold, I never feel like it's overpowering. It's always healthy. I love the flavors and I want to learn how to cook it."
Vella has been taking cooking classes with Bill since he first started offering them last year.
Except during football season, Bill offers cooking classes on Sundays for groups of eight or more. It has developed into a popular attraction for the restaurant. There is a waiting list.
"I don't cook at all. I hand them three recipes and I tell them to cook," Bill said.
He's not afraid to share his recipes and he enjoys teaching people how to cook.
Freedom is something Bill and Brooke love about owning a restaurant.
While Bill admits he has always had the creative license as a chef to cook the way he wants, he loves being able to create his own recipes and menu themes.
The Sells, who enjoy experiencing different foods and traveling, love spices and there is a Caribbean/southwestern/Mexican flare to the dishes at Bold.
"It's just a different style of cuisine - stuff you don't see in Altoona," Brooke said.
A lot of customers enjoy the tapas - small dishes which can be shared. The fish tacos made with broiled haddock and topped with feta cheese, mango salsa and pineapple-habanero hot sauce are popular, as are the pan-seared scallops.
Vella's favorite dish is the blackened chicken served with blue cheese, while a popular dish among the employees is the beef tenderloin served with blue cheese and red chile-molasses sauce.
"I love the blackened grouper. It's excellent," server Alex Mariani said. "All the food is excellent."
Though owning a restaurant isn't easy, the Sells like the flexibility.
The restaurant is open every day for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and every day for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m., (except Sunday), but the Sells are able to make it to all of their 6-year-old son Kade's sporting and school events. Bill also has two older children, Nikolas, 16, and Jordan, 20, who help out with the restaurant. "Everything I do is for me. I don't have to answer to anybody else," Bill said.
Brooke, who is also a registered nurse at Blair Medical Center, finds it hard to be a mom, work full-time and help with the restaurant, but she says "We make it work."
"Owning a restaurant is like having a new baby. It's 24-7. You lose sleep over it," Brooke said.
Location has been a challenge for the downtown Altoona restaurant, but the Sells expected that in the beginning. Lunchtimes and weekends are the busiest, with weeknights being pretty slow. With the white tablecloths and dim lighting, some families don't want to bring their children, Brooke said.
"They would prefer to come for date night," Brooke said. "They come here for a pleasurable evening, a lot of great wine."
Children are welcome and high chairs are available. There is not a children's menu, but Bill is willing to accommodate upon request.
The Sells hope downtown Altoona will grow and the restaurant will thrive.
"We would like to be a part of downtown revitalization," Brooke said. "If they could fill Heritage Plaza with more events like Jazz Fest, it would be great."
In January, a Scotch tasting dinner is planned, and the Sells hope to offer more wine tasting dinners, cooking classes and possibly a Father's Day grill-off. Some day they hope to open the downstairs for more seating and a bar.
"Opening a new business in this economy - it's no joke. The location is a challenge and I think a lot of people are cutting back, but we have done phenomenal," Brooke said. "It's just an essence of time and being patient."