Hello fellow foodies! I enjoyed writing about Porterhouse a while ago, so I wanted to share about one of my other favorite restaurants. This intimate location in White Bear Lake is a neat little gem for those who appreciate Italian-influenced cooking. For those who are more into sushi, Mizu is right next door, and both are owned by Daron and Nicole Close. I got a chance to ask Nicole a few questions about running the restaurants
Nicole and Daron have been working together in the restaurant business for years, and “opening our own spot and doing it for ourselves was the next step (and a dream).” Acqua began as a rustic Italian menu and has evolved over the past 13 years. it remains Italian in nature with French, Mediterranean, and new American influences. “We source the very best ingredients we can find and our chefs are brilliant at using them in creative ways. They surprise me every day.”
Acqua has plenty of savory dishes to choose from, but a few of my favorites are the osso buco (pork shank with a side of sweet potatoes), the ragu alla Bolognese, and the roasted chicken with marsala and risotto.
The couple met in a restaurant and formed a friendship around the amazing nightlife in the Twin Cities. Their connection evolved in 2007, and they opened Acqua in June 2009. Nicole remembers, “I will never forget the rainy day that we went out to visit the location. It was reflective of the little destination restaurants we would take day or weekend visits to.”
Their second project, Mizu, was “an interesting start-up.” With restaurants in Forest Lake and Stillwater, and a less-than-ideal cooking space next door, they settled on sushi, since it doesn’t need to be cooked. Mizu opened in June 2017 and has been bustling ever since. Occasionally, service staff will switch between restaurants if one is busier than the other, which I think is a handy perk of owning neighboring restaurants.
The biggest challenge for both of them is work-life balance. “The phone is always on, schedules are always changing and emails are always rolling in.”But the chaos has been worth it for them to form their enduring community. “From the staff that has become our family to the guests that have become our community and friends, I couldn’t be [happier] to go to work every day. I really feel so proud.”
If you’re looking for a quiet date night option with friendly staff, knowledgable restaurant owners, and a comforting atmosphere, check out Acqua in White Bear Lake. Maybe I’ll see you there.