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The Final Note : Cafe Bellissimo, known for its singing waiters and karaoke, plans to close.

July 30, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It ain't over 'til the last waiter sings.

In the case of Cafe Bellissimo, the Thousand Oaks Italian restaurant known for its singing servers and karaoke clientele, that last note probably will be heard within the next 10 days.

After nearly three years of simultaneously serving up pop tunes and pasta, the restaurant will shut its doors with a grand-finale celebration, but a date hasn't been set.

Owner Anthony Bellissimo, in his eighth year in the restaurant business, said there are several reasons for the closure.

"My son [Tony] was my partner for the last three years and he decided to go back and become a Ventura County sheriff. He's in the sheriff's academy now," said Bellissimo, who previously co-owned another of his family's Italian restaurants in Woodland Hills.

"I also was having some problems with the lease with the landlord," he said. "He didn't want to continue it."

The lease problem has since been worked out, Bellissimo said, and another restaurant may follow in the cafe's footsteps.

But regardless of the other factors, Bellissimo said, he wouldn't mind a change of pace.

"I've been in it for awhile," he said. "I've kind of lost the interest so now, at this point, I don't want to work six days a week. That's too much for me."

News that the last "That's Amore" is pending has spread quickly among Bellissimo's regular diners. They have expressed their sadness often during the last few weeks.

"I feel bad," Bellissimo said. "A lot of people enjoy the place. It's fun for a lot of people in the county. There are not many places for the family to go. Sometimes we have the great-grandma, the grandma, four generations up on stage singing."

For now, Bellissimo said, he doesn't see another restaurant in his future. Rather, his focus will turn toward writing a book detailing his philosophy of life.

"I have a psychological, spiritual way of looking at things, approaching things to better the world," he said. "It seems to me I've taken a role, even as a kid, to better people."

*

Four wines produced by Ojai's Old Creek Ranch Winery will be featured at a multi-course dinner tonight at Port Royal restaurant at Channel Islands Harbor.

The evening's menu will open with seared scallops on a bed of arugula, endive and spicy roasted, sweet red pepper in an orange vinaigrette, served with a 1996 San Antonio White, followed by ravioli stuffed with chicken in a light artichoke cream sauce, accompanied by a 1995 Chardonnay.

For the main course, guests will be served grilled veal chops marinated in herbs and served on a bed of sauteed wild mushrooms, accompanied by a 1995 Zinfandel.

Dinner will conclude with a 1993 Merlot and "Anne's Chocolate Surprise" dessert. The dish is named after Port Royal General Manager Anne Tromba, former co-owner of Giovanni's restaurant in Camarillo.

The Oak Creek Ranch dinner, Tromba said, is part of a planned monthly series of wine and food events. Next on the schedule is an Aug. 20 dinner featuring Fess Parker wines.

Cost of this evening's dinner is $45 per person. Port Royal is at 3900 Bluefin Circle. For reservations, call (805) 382-7678.

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