In the building that is known as the oldest continually running pub in Milwaukee, Gino Fazzari, owner of Old World 3rd Street's Calderone Club, has found a way to merge the quality of food you'd find at any of his family's restaurants with the type of fun you'd expect at a Downtown pub.
The doors to his newest venture, the Calderone Pub, 322 W. State St., opened June 3 to offer customers something that is sometimes hard to come by in this city: great bar food.
For his first-ever pub, Fazzari had no doubt that food would be a priority. Calderone Pub offers 10 sandwich varieties, and as one of only 19 Certified Angus Beef restaurants in Milwaukee, the first on the menu is the "Teddy" burger, a 10-ounce prime beef burger named for his 5-year-old son.
For his appetizers, Fazzari has a "no poppers" rule of thumb, meaning, nothing cheap and greasy. Selections include, asiago, spinach and artichoke dip, chicken quesadillas, jumbo buffalo wings and calamari.
Another area of pride is the ice cream fountain Fazzari installed as a way to make his establishment more family-oriented.
"We wear a lot of different hats around here," he says. " We'd like to be the place that people stop at before and after Downtown events, whether it's "Disney on Ice" or a Rolling Stones concert. We're a bar that knows how to have fun at night, but we can also act as a kid-friendly restaurant during the day."
The fountain features old-fashioned malts, gourmet shakes and root beer floats.
And, apparently, root beer floats aren't the only way to mix the Sprecher Root Beer at the Calderone Pub. According to bar manager Bobby Maurer, the pub has invented its own specialty house drink called the "Calderone Pub Root Beer Brew." The right combination of Sprecher Amber and Sprecher Root Beer makes for a refreshing and, surprisingly, not overwhelmingly sweet "beer."
"It was an accident, actually," says Maurer. "I wasn't watching when I was pouring, and I pulled the wrong tap, mixing the two. When I realized what I did, I had to try it, and it was good!" The drink has yet to make it to any official beer lists, so, if you go, you're going to have to request it. Another one of Maurer's favorite concoctions is a half-half mixture of Leinie's Honey Weiss and Leinie's Berry Weiss, and he's happy to pour the "Honey Bear" for anyone who asks.
Fazzari says that the month or so that the Pub's been open has been slow, but steady, and hopes that everything he has planned for the place will turn Calderone Pub into a Downtown favorite.
"We've put a lot of work into this place, from upgrading the kitchen, to massive cleaning and even interior decorating (Fazzari's mom made the curtains). We wanted to work all the kinks out before taking on even more."
What does the Calderone Pub have in store? A happy hour, for one, will soon be implemented from 4 to 6 p.m., and will feature the progressive martini special ($4 at 4 p.m., $5 at 5 p.m., etc.) Currently, they serve food until 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends, but Sous Chef Jerry Feger says that he's working on a late-night menu for people to nosh on while enjoying the live blues and jazz gigs they plan to host.
"Good food is the key," says Fazzari. "Many bars put a lot of energy into making the best drinks and put food second, but I don't see why I can't do both?"
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”