Belle Terre Club’s big changes are coming

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nationally-known chef from Rome to boost cuisine



LAPLACE — When two local businessmen combined to purchase Belle Terre Country Club earlier this year, they promised to bring big changes and restore the club to its former status as a top St. John social spot.

Only months into that change of ownership, the changes are coming forth faster than anyone expected, with even bigger things to come in the near future.

Local real estate developer Joey Scontrino teamed with longtime St. John resident Tim Duhe to purchase the club, and the improvements at Belle Terre are impressive to say the least, in the short time since they made the buy.

Golfers to Belle Terre have already noticed many positive changes throughout the actual course to improve play. There has been new outside lighting put in front of the club, major changes in the food lineup are underway, teen parties have been planned for kids, a Wednesday night wine tasting dinner has begun, 72 new golf carts have arrived and a new club golf pro has been hired in Bruce Bell.

But none of those things may be as interesting as the fact that a nationally known chef from Rome, Italy will be coming to head the restaurant in September, starting what is a three year commitment to transform the eatery into one of the top in the region.

Chef Allesandro Frusone, who currently owns and operates three restaurants in Philadelphia, will open Bella’s at Belle Terre restaurant in the near future, while heading up all food preparation for the club.

“We feel so fortunate to have someone like Chef Frusone coming here,” said Trudy Duhe, new event planner and hospitality manager. “Tim and I got to know him when we went to Rome, and when we asked him for some advice recently, he agreed to come to St. John and help us get started. He’s agreed to a three year commitment.”

Duhe has come on board to head all the events and restaurant lineup. The club has extended its menu, and now has five buffet lunches a week. They will soon start a family dining night, and had great success recently with the first wine tasting night.

“We had about 60 people here for our first wine tasting and dinner,” she said. “We will begin doing that on a regular basis. And eventually we hope to have a VIP dining area for members that will be upstairs.”

Tim Duhe, who is acting as general manager, said that the new ownership wants Belle Terre to return to its “glory days” when it was the top social spot for the region.

“When Pete Dye designed this course, Belle Terre was the top spot for people to come to socialize,” he said. “Trudy and I were here at that time and we want this club to get back to that kind of status. There used to be about two major social functions a month here and we want to get back to that kind of schedule.”

Club membership has risen from 217 in April when the new owners bought the club, to a current number of 275.

“And it is really growing,” Tim Duhe said. “We’ve increased business here about 50 percent already and you can tell people are getting excited about the changes.”

Duhe said there will be “about $750,000” in improvements in the first year, with the entire swimming area and locker rooms getting a major makeover after the current swim season.

“We will also be doing a lot of drainage work on the course,” he added.

The club has added several new levels of membership, including a Public Service Membership, an Out of Town Membership, and a Duel Membership for those wanting to play Belle Terre golf course and other courses.

“We tried to buy this club 14 years ago, so Trudy and I have been collecting ideas at other clubs for all this time,” Tim Duhe remarked. “We know how we want to be treated at a club, and now we want members to be treated that way too. We want this club to be something special for LaPlace. Belle Terre is a club that deserves to be treated as a special place.”