A longtime Oak Park Italian restaurant is under new ownership after 19 years in the hands of the River Forester who opened it.

Bloomingdale residents Vince and Mary Gentile are taking over the reins of La Bella from founder Michael Pace. The couple moved here from Florida looking to own a restaurant. Vince Gentile, 27, went to culinary school, ran a much bigger restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and has managed La Bella for the past six months. LaBella is located at 1103 South Blvd.

The new owners plan to make a few minor changes, adding a few more wines and dishes, but the transition should be relatively seamless for customers.

“It’s been a staple there for as long as it has, so there’s not really reason to change,” Gentile said.

Pace, 53, plans to focus his efforts more on a much larger restaurant that his wife of 32 years, Diane, owns in Clarendon Hills. He feels that he may have become stagnant in his ownership of La Bella and hopes that it will benefit from the energy of a younger owner.

“There’s a lot of competition out there,” Pace said. “So it needs simple things like social networking, something I’m a dinosaur with. These young kids, they’re on Facebook and Twitter and out advertising, and it’s remarkable what their energy can do.”

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