Prepare yourselves foodies. An authentic Florentine restaurant named Bella Fortuna North is opening in Lake Leelanau on June 29th. Bella is an elegant establishment with friendly staff situated behind NJ’s Grocery on West Main Street. They specialize in bona fide Florentine and Tuscan fare, like their homemade pizza and genuine Italian wines. They use local and organic ingredients in all their food, and take it from me, it’s exquisite.
Bella Fortuna North will celebrate its grand opening on both June 29th and 30th. The plan is to serve dinner on those days in an open house from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Portions of the dinner’s proceeds will go to the Leelanau Cancer Center so they can buy blanket warmers for their chilly patients. This is a cause dear to the heart of Bella’s co-owner Dr. Jane Fortune, a breast cancer survivor.
Dr. Robert Hesse is co-owner with Dr. Jane Fortune, and both are passionate about authenticity. The pair lives part time switching between Leland and Florence. Bella Fortuna is their first restaurant, and they really want it to be a unique experience.
“Everything down to the music is Tuscan or Florentine,” explains Dr. Fortune. “If our customers ever go to Florence, we want them to be able to say, ‘We had this experience in Lake Leelanau.’”
All the wine served in the restaurant is imported from Italy. Specially showcased are the wines by female vintners in Tuscany.
“They are not easy to get,” says Dr. Fortune. “It’s a very unique thing. We don’t know anyone else who does this.”
“We also make our own limoncello and a spectacular ginger tonic,” Dr. Hesse adds in.
Starting on July 9th, Bella Fortuna will host their Lunch and Learn program that lasts through the rest of the month. For $35.00, patrons can enjoy a Florentine lunch with wine as a guest speaker talks about different cultural aspects of Florence and Tuscany. July 29th through August 5th features Benedetta Vitale, renowned Italian chef and author of Tradition and Innovation in Tuscan Cooking. She will be at Bella Fortuna to give cooking classes, book signings, and help prepare dinner. There after a different Italian chef will be brought for one week each month to give lectures or discussions.
“We don’t want to make money off of this,” Dr. Hesse says about the program. “We want to teach people about Italy and for them to enjoy the experience.”
The owners were kind enough to let me try some of their food at Bella Fortuna. It was positively delightful. The pizza was stunning, and the desert was so good it felt sinful. As soon as you enter the building the staff makes you a welcome guest in a warm and beautiful home.
“One of the important things in Florence is familia, family. So we tell our staff that we are all family,” Dr. Fortune says.