Here’s the best news to happen to Forest Lake diners in, well, maybe forever.

Daron Close and Chris Whalen, the D’Amico-trained duo behind the terrific Acqua (4453 Lake Av. S., White Bear Lake,, are launching Acqua Forest Lake (8241 North Shore Trail) in the former Lake House Restaurant. The short-lived Lake House opened on Second Lake’s Willow Point in 2008 and closed the following year; the building has remained empty.

“We’ve had our eye on it for a long time,” said Close. “The price finally came down to where it’s feasible.”

It’s a sweet property: Roughly 230 seats split between two dining rooms — about four times the size of the original Acqua — along with a fully equipped bar, a spacious lakeview patio and a dock with nearly 20 slips for daily parking.

“It’s gorgeous, although right now the view is strictly ice houses and snowmobiles,” said Close with a laugh.

Whelan will continue to focus on rustic Italian fare, emphasizing fresh seafood (“before we got going we called Coastal Seafoods and asked them if they would deliver fresh daily to Forest Lake,” said Close). The property’s larger kitchen will also allow Whelan to concentrate on a wider selection of small-plate items.

The plan is to serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday, along with a family-style Sunday brunch. Opening date is April 16.


Keeping kosher

Kosher diners have another option. Vitali’s Bistro (5101 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, quietly opened last month in the former Bean Good Cafe.

At their casual, vegetarian-friendly cafe, owners and spouses Vitali Logman and Masha Kaganovich are specializing in sweet and savory crepes, omelets, panini sandwiches, smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices and coffee, along with house-made baked goods ranging from apple pound cake to Napoleons.

The moderately priced restaurant is celebrating its grand opening Thursday with an open-house menu sampling from 5 to 9 p.m.; cost is $12.

Regular business hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to two hours before sunset on Friday, and two hours after sunset until midnight on Saturday, when live music is featured.

Feb. 14 is a significant date for the recently married couple; they met via an online dating site on Valentine’s Day and were married a month later. How romantic is that?



Going whole hog

This sounds like fun: Chef Wyatt Evans is creating nine pork-filled courses (including littleneck clams with blood sausage, a pork jowl vinaigrette on bitter greens and a maple panna cotta finished with bacon powder) at a special “whole hog” dinner at W.A. Frost Co. (374 Selby Av., St. Paul, on Feb. 24. Cost is $135 per person; reservations at 651-224-5715.



Opening next week

Burch (1924 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.), the ambitious dinner/late-night venture from the Bar La Grassa team of Isaac Becker, Nancy St. Pierre and Ryan Burnet, opens Tuesday in the former home of Burch Pharmacy. For a sneak peek inside the two-level restaurant and bar, go to