By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 10, 2020 at 2:01 PM Photography: Lori Fredrich

The Italian-inspired Apertiivo has softly opened its doors at 311 N. Plankinton Ave., serving up breakfast, lunch and cocktails in beautifully appointed rustic industrial digs.

The venue is a partnership between The Pritzlaff building owner Kendall Breunig and restaurant industry veteran Richard Kerhin, who also operates Richard's Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot at The Tannery, 700 W. Virginia St. 

Inside the space you’ll find a well appointed bar, complete with comfortable stools, a beautiful wood and iron bar-top and conveniently placed outlets for charging devices.

Meanwhile, large booths provide comfortable seating for socializing with a group.

You’ll definitely want to take a look around at the old school art on the walls, largely comprised of Pritzlaff Hardware advertisements and related vintage reprints.

There are also two window-side high top tables situated just beneath a wall display of "do-nothing machines" (also called Rube Goldberg machines), created from repurposed components gleaned elsewhere in The Pritzlaff.

Breakfast, lunch & cocktails

Service at Aperitivo is casual. Breakfast and lunch guests can order their food at the bar and choose a seat wherever they’d like.

The breakfast menu, served until 10:30 a.m. features options like toasted bagels and cream cheese ($3); a breakfast burrito with bacon, pepper jack, sour cream and pico de gallo ($6.50); a breakfast croissant filled with two eggs, cheddar and bacon ($6) or Greek yogurt with fruit and honey ($4.50) along with Valentine Coffee, Rishi Tea, milk or juice.

Lunch offerings include a soup of the day (8-ounce cup for $4 and 16-ounce bowl for $7.50), Greek, Caesar or Chicken Caesar salads ($6-8) or any number of housemade sandwiches and wraps ($8 each). Sides include chips, coleslaw, potato salad, or fruit ($1-$1.50).

Sandwich options include The Pritzlaff featuring warmed shaved roast beef, blue cheese, roasted mushrooms and onions and mayonnaise on a toasted sub roll.

Guests will also find classic club sandwiches, a B.L.T., and original creations like The Wiseguy with ham, Genoa salami, provolone, red onion, tomato, giardiniera peppers, lettuce, mayonnaise and vinaigrette on a fresh sub roll; or The Jive Turkey with turkey, provolone, spicy mayonnaise, craisins, bacon and spring mix in a spinach wrap.

There’s also the Medianoche (Cubano) with housemade slow-cooked pork loin, ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickles cooked panini-style on a soft roll.

There are also vegetarian sandwiches including the Caprese with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil; and a hummus and veggie wrap with feta, red onion, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, Sriracha and spring mix.

Daily aperitivo

In keeping with its name, Aperitivo also promises to be the first venue in the city to adopt the Italian tradition of aperitivo, an after-work custom featuring pre-dinner drinks and snacks specifically designed to whet your appetite.

Phase one of the offerings are in place. Guests can expect full service at both the bar and accompanying seating, with waitstaff on hand to take drink orders. The full bar features a curated selection of approximately 20 international and domestic wines; a solid selection of beer, including six on tap and an additional 20 beers and ciders available in bottles and cans.

There’s also a cocktail menu that runs the gamut between lighter, low-abv quaffs like the aperol spritz to classics like the Manhattan, vesper and both classic and Wisconsin-style old fashioneds (all priced $8-12).

As you’d expect, there’s also a nice collection of Amari, including Campari, Aperol, Aperitivo Nonino, Ramazzotti Aperitivo Rosato, any of which can be enjoyed on the rocks or tempered by a pour of Top Note Tonics bitter lemon, grapefruit or tonic.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive so far," says Kerhin, noting that a bar menu, along with a traditional aperitivo-style happy hour will be implemented within the next two to three weeks.

Once in place, aperitivo offerings will be available Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. (and eventually in the afternoon on Saturdays) featuring three or four complimentary bite-sized snacks (think bruschetta or mini flatbreads with hummus or other toppings) available with the purchase of drinks.

An additional limited bar menu will feature additional for-purchase selections, including choices like cheese and charcuterie.

In the future, Kerhin says he also expects to host events, including wine tastings and themed evenings at the new bar.

Patio, parking & more to come

Construction on South Second Street is scheduled to begin next month. Part of the plan is to add double-wide sidewalks in front of The Pritzlaff building. Construction is expected to be completed before the Democratic Convention, and will allow Aperitivo to add a fairly substantial sidewalk patio.

Parking is available on weekends and in the evening (after 6 p.m.) for Aperitivo guests in the Pritzlaff Lofts ground level parking garage at 179 W. St. Paul Ave. for a minimal fee. To park, guests just need to download the ParqEx mobile app to reserve a parking stall.

Currently, Aperitivo is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. (breakfast) and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch). The bar is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 to midnight.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.