Jenn Luna
Special to the Bonanza

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April 10, 2013
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Meet Your Tahoe Merchant: Serving pizza with a smile at Tomaato’s

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — After graduating from college, Scotty and Nora Behrens decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. The twenty-somethings had met at Dartmouth where they both studied Religious Studies and began dating while studying overseas in Scotland.

So, not unlike many college students, the two took some time off to do something daring, and see what would happen next. Nora described the six-and-a-half-month journey through the infamous mountains of eastern U.S. as “intense.”

“It was a long time to be out there without creature comforts,” she said. “It was really uncomfortable at times.”

The dark haired blue-eyed woman from Rhode Island said she learned many things during her time hiking the Appalachians that have carried her through other journeys of her life.

Today, Scotty and Nora are the owners of Tomaato’s, a restaurant in Incline known for its delicious pizzas and fresh ingredients.

The couple moved to the area to spend a winter skiing, and like so many who come to Tahoe, the couple never left.

“We were just going to chill for a while and see what happened next,” Nora said.

Starting out at the bottom, Scotty and Nora worked their way up. Buying Tomaato’s from the original owner, the couple learned the ways of the business, making their own changes and finding their place in the community.

“We were the first two waiters hired,” she said.

Their restaurant is proud to serve fresh and natural ingredients whenever possible, including using a natural starter for their pizza dough.

Scotty spends most of his time in the kitchen, where he says he has enjoyed learning and experimenting.

“Part of the fun of cooking is not only tinkering with recipes but writing them and systemizing them,” he said.

A few years ago both he and his wife decided to make changes in their diets, changing to a more vegan preference.

Tomaato’s offers dairy free, gluten-free and vegetarian options, something Nora and Scotty have seen an increased demand for in recent years.

“We sell a lot of gluten-free pizza,” Scotty said.

“People are thrilled they can go out to dinner with their friends and they can have pizza and not just a salad,” Nora added.

More than their pizzas, the couple offer a hang-out for many people in Incline.

Emmett and Heather Hall say they frequent the restaurant, especially in the summer, when the patio is open and has a “European feel.”

Mary O’Donnell, one of their loyal customers, and her grandson Conor claim to be big fans of the Thai chicken pizza.

And with Conor (the picky eater that he is) being off at college, his grandmother (to ensure that he is well fed) has been known to send him frozen Thai pizzas from Tomaato’s.

“That Thai pizza is like nothing else in the world,” Mary said. “He loves it, and I’m nuts.”

With the high and low seasons and the changes in the economy, running the business has been a journey for the Behrens.

Nora and Scotty also have three young children at home. When not at Tomaato’s, Nora spends her time working as an advocate for families with severe disabilities.

Bryan, the Behrens’ eldest son, suffered a stroke in utero, and balancing the business as well as raising a family and giving Bryan the extra care he needs has been a learning experience.

“The journey parallel works in a lot of different ways,” Nora said, referring to her and Scotty’s hike along the Appalachian and their journey as a couple raising a child with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. “When Bryan was born as well it was a whole new uncomfortable world that we had to navigate.”

Nora dedicates time and energy to advocacy and community education for families with sever disabilities. Tomaato’s holds fundraisers, because, as Nora says, “The more you give out the more you give back.”

“The more you give out the more you give back.”
Nora Behrens


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 15, 2013 10:48AM Published Apr 10, 2013 02:18PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.