Customers of Bella Via will mangia for the final time at the Highland Park restaurant on Feb. 18.
The 26-year-old Italian restaurant is closing amid challenging times, according to General Manager Carmela LaValle.
LaValle said that following the height of the pandemic and the Highland Park shooting in 2022, Bella Via’s building changed ownership and the two sides could not work out a deal for Bella Via to remain at 1899 Second Street in downtown Highland Park.
“We’ve been a part of the community for a really long time,” said LaValle, who has worked at Bella Via for 22 years. “It’s really sad.”
Chef Maurizio Lobosco opened Bella Via and remains the restaurant’s owner. LaValle began working at Bella Via as a hostess when she was a sophomore at Highland Park High School.
She said she’s always appreciated the restaurant’s community focus and its customers’ loyalty.
“It’s been a great restaurant for 26 years and it’s been consistent,” she said. “We have a very loyal following and are truly part of the community. I have a lot of great memories with our customers and I’m happy for that.”
LaValle also mentioned she had mixed feelings when seeing that a new Italian restaurant, DeNucci’s, was coming to the same block with help from a $1.5 million grant from the City of Highland Park.
She said she believes the restaurant will have a positive impact on her hometown, Highland Park, but she couldn’t help but wonder if there could be more opportunities to help current businesses.
City Manager Ghida Neukirch said the city’s development department is in contact with Bella Via with the hopes of identifying a new Highland Park location for the restaurant.
Highland Park’s relatively new “boutique incentive” is meant to draw attractive restaurants to town, and Neukirch said its goal is to boost local commerce through employment, increased foot traffic and direct sales. She said the city recently expanded its exterior improvement grant program that helps existing businesses improve their spaces.
“Bella Via is a cherished, loved restaurant in the community and we have been working diligently to help them retain their business in Highland Park,” Neukirch said in an email. “When Bella Via finds a new space, the City will be able to assist them in making improvements to the new space as part of our incentives for existing businesses.”
Astra also closed — for now
It is not clear how long another Highland Park establishment will be closed.
Astra Coffee Roasters, 477 Roger Williams Ave., abruptly closed in late January with brown paper covering the windows. A sign on its doors says the closure is temporary “while we complete maintenance and updates to our shop.”
The Record’s attempts to reach the cafe have been unsuccessful.
With uniquely sourced coffees, Astra opened in the Ravinia district in 2022.
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