Jim Murphy & Sons

“Casa Bella” in Marshfield combines Italian fare with historic castle flare

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You might expect that a restaurant that looks a bit like a castle built in the 1930s might have some history. And Casa Bella certainly does – but first the food. Mighty tasty, rich is texture and flavor, served up with style but without pretense.

Jennifer and Chris Case opened Casa Bella in March in what began as a funeral home in Marshfield. Built in 1937 during the Great Depression, its solid rock walls have the look of a WPA project. There’s plenty of outdoor seating for those who enjoy alfresco dining. Indoors, Jennifer and Chris spent countless hours restoring the beautiful wood floors – even in the kitchen. Otherwise, it’s a work in progress with black walls harkening back to previous endeavors. The Cases hope to turn their attic into an apartment. In fact, the basement used to be home for the Rainey family until a water leak ruined the decor.

“Various others have lived here,” says Chris, a Parkview High School graduate who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Army Reserves and is now enrolled at Ozarks Technical College studying history.

Jennifer and Chris Case

Chris and Jennifer Case had roots in Springfield and Marshfield before turning their castle into a home – and a restaurant. Now it’s Casa Bella.

Others had competing ideas with what to do with the place including a movie theater, “even a skating rink, though I cannot verify that,” adds Chris.

“As for ghosts, I’m still a skeptic so to me there really is nothing exciting about the place, other than its historical value and that it looks like a legitimate castle. For Jennifer however, we did have the Springfield Paranormal Society come in and look and they said they caught an EVP (electronically generated noise). I do believe she has contacted The Atlantic Paranormal Society as well, though I don’t believe we have heard back from them.”

“Italian is the food we love best,” says Jennifer, who worked for James Clary at Fish and Clary’s in Springfield.

“More importantly, it’s the type of food we thought that Marshfield and the surrounding area could use, and would appreciate the most.”

Though Casa Bell just opened its doors, there’s a lot of experience behind them.

“My first actual cooking job was at Betty’s Billiards,” says Jennifer. “It was really just short-order cooking but we had excellent food. Before Betty’s, I lived in New York state. I had taken some cooking classes but never really put them to use much. I worked in the kitchen at Fish from the time James opened the doors. I knew then I wanted to open a restaurant. I learned everything I could about opening one. Later I moved to Clary’s where I continued to learn about fine dining, catering, and I’m very grateful for my years under James, he’s an amazing teacher.

Casa Bella Staff

Jennifer and Chris Case, right, are joined by the kitchen and wait staff at Case Bella. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner in what was a 1930s funeral home that resembles a stone castle.

“We can do private functions as well as catering for anyone who is interested,” says Chris “The building is available on our days off which are Sunday and Monday.”

Casa Bella is committed to serving locally grown ingredients, and is still working with local vendors to make that happen.

Located at 242 East Washington, hours of operation are from Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch is 11a.m.-2 p.m. and Dinner 4-9 p.m.

Oh, and did we mention there was a murder on the premises? But that’s another story, perhaps not one conducive for mealtime conversation, which is why we’re excited to report that the Italian cuisine is worth a drive to Marshfield.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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