SHIFTING GEARS A man can take only so much glitz. Cesar Casas (pictured, left) took it for eight years, earning his culinary stripes in Ambria’s kitchen, where he learned every classical French technique from how to chiffonade basil to executing tender beef roulade. Those skills have now taken a decidedly downscale turn at his new home, Café Bella, a casual neighborhood spot his friend Hector Pena just opened (named for his daughter Bella, pictured, center). “We’re starting slow, like an affordable little bistro coffee shop,” Casas says. “Sandwiches, salads, ceviche, bruschetta…but I am going to do weekend dinner specials kind of based on things I learned at Ambria, like filet with ratatouille and pommes dauphinoise.” For now, the hours are limited (11am to 9pm) and it’s BYOB, but Pena (pictured, right) has plans for a breakfast menu and coffee drinks for morning commuters, a liquor license and even an expansion next door by summer for another 30 seats. If all goes well, Casas might be back in the fast lane sooner than he thought. 3311 W Fullerton Ave at Spaulding Ave (773-292-5040).