By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 26, 2005 at 5:39 AM

{image1} When Joe Volpe opened Tess in 2002, it was, and still is, very well received as a forerunner of the upscale, yet casual, dining trend in Milwaukee. Three years later, he's taking another stab at the restaurant business, this time in the Third Ward.

The Holiday House, 525 E. Menomonee St., opened Sept. 20 to the delight of many fans of Volpe's culinary skills, as well as those with a fondness for the Milwaukee of yesteryear.

"My grandfather (John Volpe) and his friend Bruno Ramazzini ran the Holiday House in the '40s through the '60s," says Volpe. A classy supper club on the corner of Clybourn and Van Buren Streets, the original Holiday House was the place in town to take in a Dean Martin show and enjoy a nice meal.

Now in its new location, the 4,200-sq. ft. ground level of the Jefferson Block Apartments building, the old black and white photos he has planned for the walls of the bar are the only remnants of his grandfather's era. With a fresh look complemented by the vintage photography, Volpe describes his version of the restaurant as "classic meets contemporary."

{image2} "I'm not trying to recreate the original. I'll hang up the pictures for a little history, but the rest of the décor, and the cuisine, will be contemporary."

Volpe's business partner, James Benway, describes the menu as "world cuisine," offering an eclectic selection of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts. The entrees, under the heading "Act Three" on the menu, are predominantly meats and seafood, ranging from seared diver scallops etouffe, to grilled cocoa marinated beef tenderloin, and even the vegetarian-friendly wild mushroom timbale.

"World cuisine allows us to do anything we want," says Benway. "You'll find French influences, classic Italian influences and even hints of Cajun in our sauces."

Dinner is served seven days a week starting at 5 p.m. During the week, they'll serve until 10 p.m., 11 p.m. on weekends.

{image3} Holiday House has a full bar, including an impressive wine list -- starting with at least 50 varieties and extending to a fluctuating selection of specialty wines. The owners agree that the wine list is something that will continue to grow with time.

His grandfather's Holiday House had a slogan: "Every day is a party." Judging from the black and whites, it looks as if the venue lived up to the saying. There's Al Capone having a drink with his cronies, Frankie Avalon when he sang at Volpe's mother's birthday party and Dean Martin sharing a table with Volpe family members.

In some aspects, Volpe is carrying out his grandfather's "good times" tradition. "We're promoting the night life," he says. After dinner until 2 a.m., the music -- sometimes live -- takes a turn toward contemporary and the martinis start flowing to create a warm, loungey feel. "This is a new era for the Holiday House," says Volpe. "It's really exciting."

Julie Lawrence Special to 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 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.”