By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jul 13, 2005 at 5:40 AM

{image1} Dean Cannestra, co-owner of Riverwest's much-loved Nessun Dorma, is at it again as his latest bar and restaurant takes shape in the cozy Schlitz Park space that until 2004 was home to the Brown Bottle Pub.

Cannestra is calling this one Libiamo, and like Nessun Dorma, (named after a Puccini aria that translates to "no one sleeps") it, too, was named after a song in an Italian opera.

"'Libiamo' is an aria from 'La Traviata' and references a toast," he says. "Loosely, it means 'Let's drink to ...'"

Libiamo, 221 W. Galena St., will be open for toasting and much more on July 20, says Cannestra, who co-owns it with his wife, Mary. The new establishment will feature a full bar and will specialize in an impressive wine selection. Starting with 50 to 60 varieties, Cannestra plans to expand his list to about 150 wines, offered by the glass, half carafe and bottle.

{image2} Much like Nessun Dorma, Libiamo's menu will consist of moderately priced Italian fare, including panini sandwiches, bruschetta and antipasti. To expand the menu, he's added panini burgers on ciabata bread, pasta dishes and various grilled seafood entrees.

The interior of the space will remain much as it was as the Brown Bottle Pub, with low light, historic photography and, of course, antler chandeliers. Being in such close proximity to a residential area, Cannestra hopes to immerse Libiamo into the community and make it a place that its neighbors want to frequent.

"I really like how Nessun Dorma has that casual neighborhood feel to it," he says. "I just want it to be comfortable, affordable and personable."

In addition to Nessun Dorma, Cannestra has been involved with his family's Italian restaurant Palermo Villa, where, years ago, after-hours drinks led to his befriending regular restaurant patron Joe Gilsdorf, who is now Nessun Dorma's co-owner.

When Cannestra and Gilsdorf decided to go into business together, no name seemed better fitting then one inspired by the music they commonly loved. Almost three years later, when it came time to name Libiamo, Cannestra admits that he's banking on the success he's had in the past.

"(Nessun Dorma) is kind of an awkward name, but it seemed to work out really well, so we thought we'd try our luck again with this one."

Libiamo will be open seven nights a week for dinner, starting at 5 p.m., and will serve until midnight on the weekends. Lunch will be served on weekdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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.”