Mike Carlson started hanging out with his buddies at Bella Bru when he was a teenager at Rio Americano High School. He’s still hanging out there, but now he has a good reason: he’s part owner.
Of course, Mike had to pay his dues before becoming a partner in Bella Bru. A self-described “foodie at heart,” he’s been a busboy, a server and a bartender. He started managing the Carmichael café in 1998, before adding Bella Bru Catering to his list of responsibilities in 2000. Today, he and founder Liz Mishler are partners in the El Dorado Hills and Carmichael stores, as well as Bella Bru Express and the Luna Lounge.
Having spent nearly half his life frequenting Bella Bru, Mike understands that maintaining a comfortable, neighborhood feel is essential. He also recognizes Bella Bru’s need to support each café’s neighborhood and participate in community events. After all, Mike and his family – wife Aubrey, and 4-year-old Lucas – also live nearby, in the Arden Park area.
Emphasizing seasonal ingredients
Mike describes the menus at Bella Bru as California cuisine with Italian and French influences. The emphasis is on seasonal faire, working with local fruit and vegetable companies. His desire to grow the dinner business in Carmichael has also led him to hire more experienced chefs who can bring their own flair to the Bella Bru kitchens. The goal is to make Bella Bru a home away from home for local diners, encouraging them to visit 4 or 5 times each week.
Mike also has big plans for the Luna Lounge, which opened in 2007. Although it is adjacent to the Carmichael café, he wants the Lounge to establish its own identity and clientele. Towards that end, he plans on expanding and upgrading the patio. He also wants to create a more inviting, neighborhood feel by adding a grill and fireplace.