Italian diner salutes '50s Milwaukee
Maybe Milwaukee can't hold on to a retro downtown diner like Ed Debevic's but Brew City itself is fodder for a diner and musical venue that recalls a lost age in American culture. Milwaukee 50's Diner is located in the town of Varedo, in the province of Milan, in northern Italy.
The diner is something of a hotspot out in provincial Milan, hosting gigs of all stripes, car shows, rockabilly nights and more. On Wednesday night, there's even line dancing!
In its seven-year existence, the diner -- which is dominated by a 36-foot-long counter -- has hosted the likes of Bill Haley's Comets, Rocky Burnette, Robert Gordon, Rosie Flores and other American retro rock and roll and country performers.
Milwaukee 50s Diner opened on Oct. 1, 1998 according to one of the owners, Matteo Grandi, and the theme derives from a love for 1950s music, cars, film and culture. Many of the period furnishings came directly from the U.S.
"The name was chosen at the time for a number of reasons," says Grandi, who opened the diner with Romina Rustioni. "Because I love Harleys –- I’ve had one since 1989 -– because Milwaukee is the city where ‘Happy Days’ was set, because it is an Indian word, because of Miller High Life and because basically, I like Milwaukee even if I had never visited. I did visit Milwaukee and Wisconsin in 2003 for the mega rock and roll (rockabilly) event at Green Bay and I liked it a lot."
Lovers of American cuisine might rue what others consider the great food available in Italy. But they'll find a slice of heaven in Varedo, thanks to the diner, which proudly serves up baked potatoes, chicken wings, brownies and milk shakes, according to its Web site.
Given the fact that everyone in Italy associates Milwaukee with "Happy Days" (in the U.K. it's "Laverne & Shirley"), it's no surprise to see Milwaukee represented in this way. But, Milwaukee was just part of the inspiration for the diner, says Grandi.
“The idea really got legs in 1996-’97 after some vacations in Florida –- more precisely Fort Lauderdale -– where I rented a car and we drove around in search of American foods, design books and recipes, and eating lunch and dinner in the most inspirational places.
“After returning I worked hard to find the right location and a good interior designer. … We found a reconstruction of a ‘50s-style counter in a place in the Province of Novara. … Finally, the location arrived, too, in an old commercial building along the freeway connecting Milan and Como. (It was) empty for years and was perfect for a diner, seeing as how it was built in the ‘60s and had octagonal windows and pink walls outside.”
You can visit the Milwaukee 50's Diner by either flying to Milan and heading north on the SS35 or simply by visiting the diner's Web site milwaukeediner.it.
Someday, we'll tell you all about the Harley Café, offering some of the best espresso near the station in tiny Castell'Alfero, just north of Asti. Germans may love David Hasselhoff, but Italian adore Harleys.
Michelle C. Stephenson said: December 16, 2005 To Whom it May Concern: I would really be interested in being able to read the web-site. When you press for the English version, it's still in Italian. Thank you, Michelle C. Stephenson
Lou said: If you put the www. in front of what's shown in the article, it takes you to the site. Then, you'll see the e-dress is firstname.lastname@example.org Nothing else special about sending email to Italy. Lou
scotty said: that's really cool. i'll have to stop there when i travel there this summer.
TJS said: I tried to email the MKEDiner in Italy using the email address at the end of this article, and it wouldn't go through. Is there a trick to sending emails to Italy? (Wanted to see if they sell t-shirts etc)
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