On any given night when the weather allows, you’ll usually find James Macdonald chatting with customers or passers-by at his West Liberty restaurant, Bella Ciao, as servers shuttle in and out of the building to serve outdoor diners. But not for much longer. After running the restaurant for over 22 years, he and his wife Kathy Macdonald are selling the business to local chef Brandon Johns, who plans to transform it over the summer into an eatery that highlights food from local farms and markets.
Bella Ciao will remain open through the upcoming Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, an event spearheaded by James Macdonald that highlights downtown restaurants and features set-price lunches and dinners. Bella Ciao’s last dinner service will be on Saturday, June 20. Johns, with his wife Sara Johns and two business partners, plan to renovate the restaurant and open it in early August as Grange Kitchen & Bar.
The deal closed earlier this week. Kathy Macdonald made the announcement at Thursday morning’s membership meeting of the Main Street Area Association, which The Chronicle attended. In a phone interview later in the day, she said they plan to focus on their other local business, Pastabilities, a pasta wholesaler that sells to area groceries and chefs. She said they’ll be selling off most of Bella Ciao’s extensive wine list as well. “There’s only so much we can bring home,” she said.