By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor
Owner Mike Wallau is transforming Mike's Cafe in Ladera into an Italian eatery, but don't call it a ristorante or trattoria. Its new name is Portola Kitchen. The cuisine? Authentic rustic Italian food prepared by chef Guillaume Bienamie.
Chef Bienamie is the former executive chef of Marche in Menlo Park and, more recently, consulting chef at Cuisinett in San Carlos.
Wallau knows Italian. He helped open Il Fornaio restaurant in Palo Alto and worked there for six years. He says it has always been his passion to have an Italian restaurant featuring food of the highest quality, while remaining a reasonably priced neighborhood dining choice.
The restaurant space at 3130 Alpine Road in the Ladera Country Shopper will reopen in July after a complete remodel. The Italian menu will include fresh house-made pasta. (Chef Bienamie has already acquired the pasta machine.) Decor will be "kind of like an Italian barn," says Wallau.
Mike's Cafe has been a popular dining spot in Ladera Country Shopper since opening six years ago. The new eatery will retain the attractive outdoor seating under a translucent covered canopy.
In the restaurant business for more than 30 years, Mike Wallau is also sole owner of Mike's Cafe in Palo Alto and Mike's Sports Bar and Grill in Menlo Park. Portola Kitchen will be his fourth restaurant.
"I'm extremely excited about this. It's something I've always wanted," he says.