UPTOWN — Bella 'Mbriana has closed in Uptown, but the owner hopes to return with a something neighbors truly want.
The family-run traditional Italian cafe, 4656 N. Clark St., closed in mid-July. It didn't quite connect with the needs of residents, co-owner Nick Russo admitted.
"We wanted to represent a certain kind of cuisine. Since we're a very small family I think what we lacked was reaching out to a lot of people," he said.
The restaurant, which opened in November 2015, offered southern Italian products including Caffe Moreno coffee and espresso, traditional pastries and desserts from Naples and gelato made fresh every day. The restaurant also offered free WiFi and had seating for about 40 people.
While he's proud what the small staff was able to do, he acknowledged the cafe didn't really attract what he sees as ideal patrons — neighbors.
"We didn't want to change into something like a franchise," he said. "What's cool about Uptown is its diversity, but many people are used to going elsewhere to spend their money."
But he's not giving up on the neighborhood or the building, instead the entrepreneur would like to know what neighbors would like to see in the area.
"What I would like to do is make it a more multi-use space for people," Russo said, adding Bella 'Mbriana did have success with events and utilizing the rare asset of a parking lot in the city.
His ideas include using the building for music, open mic or art events, but he is actively seeking input from neighbors as to what they want to see.