Bella Milano

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Bella Milano, established December 2003, offers an affordable Italian dining experience with the ambiance, service, food preparation and presentation of a fine dining restaurant. Bella Milano owners Sam Guarino and Craig Kalogerou refer to the dining experience as “fine casual” – a relaxed and comfortable dining atmosphere with a casual feel and price. Both men are passionate about quality food and fun – “We both enjoy food and entertainment. There is nothing more rewarding than hosting a party everyday with 400–500 satisfied guests.”

Food service is nothing new to neither Sam nor Craig – in fact, food is what brought them together in 1999 when Sam bought a Dairy Queen in Wood River and Craig was the area director for Dairy Queen Enterprises. Craig owns three Dairy Queens, one each in Edwardsville, Staunton and Collinsville. Sam and Craig own Bella Milano Restaurant together in Edwardsville, and another location in Springfield, which opened in November 2005. They also operate Bella Catering, a full service catering company that also exclusively manages the Leclaire Banquet Center at Lewis and Clark Community College’s N.O. Nelson campus.

Bella Milano draws a diverse crowd, from high school students to business people. Sam and Craig designed the restaurant to be attractive to several demographics and believe they have achieved their goal of being upscale enough for the nicest dinner but not so pretentious that it would discourage the more casual diner. It is a favorite date and prom destination for local high school students, adults looking to escape for a quiet or trendy meal, and groups of friends together for an evening out. Bella Milano also attracts a strong business crowd for lunches, small parties and corporate gatherings.

Bella Milano has evolved a great deal since opening its doors in 2003. Bella Milano’s lunch, dinner, seasonal, wine and drink menus are constantly tweaked and upgraded to stay current and address the desires of their varied demographics. A patio was built in 2004 and in 2006 they added an additional 1200 square feet, allowing for prep kitchen expansion and extra seating.

Bella Milano works with a number of area charities and have done many fundraisers for Southern Illinois Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, and others. They also donate to as many area events as possible given the volume of requests received. Both Craig and Sam sat on the Dairy Queen Children’s Miracle Network committee for several years and remain involved in other organizations and associations. Sam currently sits as a volunteer board member and former president of the MVCHA, which oversees high school hockey in Southern Illinois, as well as the Madison County Workforce Board.

Bella Milano joined the Ed/Glen Chamber in November 2003, before the restaurant was even open for business. Both Sam and Craig feel that Chamber membership has played a key role in the success of Bella Milano. Chamber membership has helped them engage with the community by providing opportunities to become involved, as well as sponsoring networking events that allowed them to introduce Bella Milano to residents and fellow businesses in the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area. In addition to networking opportunities and offering advice and suggestions to better run Bella Milano, Sam stated, “Our relationship with the Chamber has been one of the most rewarding experiences of doing business in Edwardsville and perfectly complements the excellent governmental staff of the city and quality and character of Edwardsville’s residents.”

Be on the lookout for some exciting new menu choices in the coming weeks – new additions will be added without eliminating any of Bella Milano’s favorite dishes, and an expanded “Bella To Go” menu is coming for the busy family. Sam and Craig also plan to continue expanding Bella Milano’s catering services for both corporate and personal events, with small events hosting 60 or fewer guests at the restaurant, seating for up to 300 at N.O. Nelson’s Leclaire Center, and catering available to any venue in the Metro St. Louis area. They also plan to implement a new gift card program to replace gift certificates as an added convenience for guests. Finally, a very special event is planned in September to celebrate Bella Milano’s six years in Edwardsville and four years in Springfield, with a formal announcement coming in August.

Bella Milano is located at 1063 Highway 157 in Edwardsville, IL
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