There are just too many restaurants in Bella Terra to compete with, Pestarino said.
But some would argue that more competition is a healthy thing.
"Without being too harsh on those folks, overall Bella Terra is certainly positive for Huntington Beach," Councilman Keith Bohr said.
"Bella Terra is bringing customers to that part of town, and it may be a challenge for those businesses on Center Avenue to attract them, but that's how capitalism works," he said.
Village business leaders are trying to compete. The center has recently added vintage clothing store Scuda Boutique, and Cobantigua, a coffee shop that will offer free wireless Web access. With Golden West College just down the road, Cyndie Kasko the daughter of village founder Josef Bischof, hopes that little perk will draw more business, she said in a November interview. Efforts to reach her this week were unsuccessful.
"We're sitting on a pot of gold over here," Kasko said. "The hope is that we can find at least 10 shops that portray what Europe is now, stuff you can't find in the mall." She added that she would love to see the village blossom into a European version of The Lab anti-mall in Costa Mesa.
Nearer to the Golden West campus, the College Country Center has seen its own share of problems. Shop owners cannot seem to agree whether Bella Terra is the cause.
Bella Terra "seems to be a franchise hub," said Anne Mason-Arnold, director of CloudMover Day Spa.
"We're such a tiny place, but we're doing OK. We offer a personal touch," she said.
Referring to her shop as the place "where the locals go" for spa therapy, Mason-Arnold has plenty of ideas on how to keep the customers flowing in.