Carrie Rengers

George Youssef plans French bistro for Bella Luna space

Lots of Bella Luna Cafe fans are despairing that the original Bella Luna at 4618 E. Central is closing after business Tuesday, but there’s a silver lining.

Longtime Wichita restaurateur George Youssef is taking over the space.

“I’m going to open … a French restaurant,” he says.

“I’m going to call it George. It better be good – my name is on the building.”

Like Bella Luna owner Matteo Taha, Youssef is a native of Lebanon. He’s planning on including some Mediterranean dishes on his menu.

Youssef also spent time in Montreal, and that’s where the French influence comes in. He says he’s thinking of dishes such as steak frites, crepes, pasta and sandwiches such as croque monsieur.

His original plan was to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, “just like a French cafe.”

Now Youssef is thinking he’ll open seven days a week for lunch and dinner initially and then add breakfast.

Taha is closing his restaurant because he says running three Bella Luna Cafes was too much for him to keep up with. He’s keeping his Bella Luna restaurants at Bradley Fair and in NewMarket Square.

Youssef previously owned Nouvelle Cafe in east Wichita and was co-owner of Uptown Bistro in Old Town Square with Melad Stephan, his distant cousin. More recently, Youssef has been a chef at the Independent School and has had Wichita Custom Catering.

“We’re going to keep doing that,” he says of the catering business. Youssef says Bella Luna “has a beautiful kitchen in the back.”

Youssef had talked about opening a restaurant or catering business in the former Food for Thought space at 2929 E. Central, but that never materialized.

He says he hopes to open in the Bella Luna space quickly. Youssef says it’ll take him a bit to get a liquor license. He also is going to start work remodeling the restaurant next week. Ideally, Youssef says, he’ll be open in a month to a month and a half.

“The most is two months.”

Look for more information about the menu and the remodeled space then.

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.