Palermo Villa, 2315 N. Murray Ave., has long been a favorite of mine. More than a decade ago, it took on special significance when my wife and I dined there on our wedding day. Since then, we’ve returned every year on our anniversary.
When I heard it was closing, I was worried. But then, co-owner Dean Cannestra, whose sister Kathy Mirenda formerly owned the restaurant, told me it would reopen as Divino. My only fear, then, after watching week after week of renovations take place, was that it wouldn’t be the same.
I’d talked to Cannestra in the past about the decor and about how it probably was time that Palermo Villa got a little facelift, and I’m pleased to report that a little facelift is exactly what the place got.
Walking in, as I did last weekend for the first time since it reopened in late December, I was pleased to see both that the place looked familiar, but also new. The layout is the same, but the decor has been completely re-done.
Outside, the facade has been freshened up but, at the same time, the Palermo Villa sign still alerts passersby that not everything has changed.
The bar looks much more like a destination now. In the past it seemed only like a place to wait for a table. A chalkboard with specials adds a dash of color.
The dining room is refreshed, with a new wine-themed mural along the west wall and other touches. Along the north wall, the booths were shifted a bit to the left to accommodate a required emergency exit.
Mirenda, who still works at the restaurant, tells me the kitchen was where the biggest changes occurred, making a difficult to navigate space much more functional for the staff.
The menu looked more or less the same – though now many dishes are available in half portions, which is a nice improvement – and I’m especially thrilled to note that the pizza doesn’t seem to have a changed a bit. It’s still one of the best in town.
Thank you, Dean and Kathy! I was beside myself thinking I could no longer get my favorite comfort foods from my youth when I visited Milwaukee. Good luck, hope you make lotsa money.
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