By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 20, 2010 at 1:55 PM
Local restaurant owners Leslie Montemurro and Scott Johnson announced today that they have purchased the property of the former Good Life restaurant at 1935 N. Water St., and will open a California-style cantina called Bel Air Cantina in early September. Joining them as a partner in the business is their long-time general manager and financial officer, Kristyn St. Denis.

Montemurro and Johnson currently own Balzac, Comet, Palomino, Honeypie, Hi-Hat and Fuel, and they say Bel Air will specialize in tacos and tequilas. Traditional offerings such as carne asada and carne al pastor will be featured, but the menu will also include original recipes such as ahi tuna tacos with wasabi cabbage, fish tacos, and vegetarian and vegan options.

Bel Air will also serve burritos, salads, tamales, salsas, and guacamole.

"I think of Bel Air as a taqueria with healthy, original -- not necessarily Mexican -- recipes," says Montemurro. "The décor will be more California surf culture than Mexican, and I think of the menu that way as well."

She says the drink menu will be built around an extensive tequila list, which will include dozens of blancos, anejos and reposados. While many specialty margaritas will be available, Bel Air will also offer tequila flights and tastings.

"Sangrita chasers will be offered with any of our tequila shots. Sangrita is a traditional mixture of tomato, lime, salt, orange juice, onion and chili peppers that takes the bite our of drinking tequila straight up," says Montemurro.

Bel Air will also serve fresh juices, juice blends and coffee drinks. Breakfast items will be available on weekends.

"We are really excited to get open. We started working with former owner, Bob Peret, on the possibility of purchasing Good Life last year. The property has interested us, and probably lots of other people, since Good Life closed, but in the last year banks were just not that open to lending to restaurants. We were close to giving up when in the last couple months things just came together," says Montemurro.

Good Life closed last November during continuing construction of the Humboldt Bridge, which reopened this summer.

"M&I agreed to look at the deal and we were approved a few weeks ago and closed on the property Friday, July 16. They were great to deal with and our banker Matt Sell made things happen quickly."

While the building is in great shape and the business practically turn-key, the three partners say will not rush opening.

"We want to make sure our menu and services are dialed before opening the doors," says St. Denis. "We want to take the time to make things right. We're very excited to get going and will definitely be pushing to get the patio open for the last weeks of summer."