Last summer we announced that James Beard Award-winning Chef Adam Siegel would be moving on from his longtime post with the Bartolotta Restaurants to open Lupi & Iris with longtime friend and developer Michael DeMichele.
Construction on the restaurant, which will be located on the ground level of the 7SEVENTY7 building, 777 N. Van Buren St., has been moving steadily forward in recent months. In fact, Siegel says that, if all goes as planned, they hope to wrap up construction by the end of April, with an opening sometime in May.
The Mediterranean themed modern fine dining restaurant is among the most high profile venues to open in Milwaukee in years. And it’s both a passion project and milestone for Siegel, who – after overseeing the openings for nearly 20 Bartolotta restaurants – will finally have a restaurant of his own.
“Bringing something different to the city is really a driving force behind this,” says Siegel, “And I’m really looking forward to bringing something entirely new to the scene.”
Even better, he says, he looks forward to the opportunity to work alongside longtime friend and colleague, Scott Williams, former multi-unit director for The Bartolotta Restaurants, who will serve as general manager for Lupi & Iris.
“We’d always joked around about one of us opening our own place in the future,” says Siegel. “So, being able to work with him again is truly amazing. We communicate well and we know how to build a great team because we’ve done that together in the past.”
Slowly taking shape
Siegel notes that, after months of work, the interior of the expansive 10,500 square foot restaurant is beginning to come together and looking less and less like a “big white box.”
That includes work on the large 80-seat dining room and elevated lounge area, along with the bar, open kitchen and chef’s table, which will offer guests a bird’s eye view of the culinary action.
It also includes the restaurant’s large private dining room, which is being built out complete with its own kitchen, bar and restroom. The space, which seats up to 80, will be used for private dinners, events and cooking demonstrations. Meanwhile, two smaller private dining rooms (which seat 8 and 16, respectively, but can also be combined to accommodate 24) are also taking shape.
The interior, which is largely surrounded by windows, will ultimately showcase a bright space with linen window treatments on the lower half of the windows and digital shades build into the upper portion. From there, Siegel says, the space will boast mid-toned wood flooring and accents, tile in the open kitchen and a color scheme composed of Mediterranean blues, pops of orange and violet.
Currently, the drywall is being framed out, wooden flooring is close to being installed and equipment is slowly-but-surely arriving and being installed. Meanwhile, Siegel says, furniture items – including handmade chairs built in Italy – have been ordered for the space.
“Seeing the different areas here coming together is really gratifying,” says Siegel, who admits that, like so many others, the build-out has been impacted by supply chain challenges.
Safety is also playing a role in the build-out. In fact, this past week, Siegel says they installed three dedicated outside air system (DOAS) units, which pull fresh outside air directly through the unit and into the building's HVAC system.
“It’s important to make people feel safe, both customers and employees, and clean air has become even more important as we work our way through the pandemic,” says Siegel, noting that the units assist in improving indoor air quality while ensuring proper ventilation.
Delicious things to come
As he patiently waits for the arrival of a center island cooking suite from Jade Range, Siegel says he’s been finalizing components of the spring menus for the restaurant, which will take inspiration from the Mediterranean region surrounding the French and Italian Riviera.
Dishes, he says, will take full advantage of both a wood-burning grill and oven, through which he can coax flavor and caramelization from meats, seafood and vegetables.
Steaks, he says, might be cooked over hot coals and served tableside. Meanwhile, bouillabase and other dishes from Southern France will be served in special tureens and fresh herbal pestos will be served with simple pasta dishes.
“I’m very much looking forward to making food with quality ingredients and serving dishes that no one else here does,” he says. “And as we build our kitchen staff, I’m looking forward to seeing both old faces and new. I love being a teacher and mentor in the kitchen, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing that.
Siegel says that, as he moves through the process of the build-out, he's been grateful for the support of his wife, Daria, who has exercised a great deal of patience as he pursues his dream. He says the process is also a keen reminder of the knowledge that he gleaned from the late Joe Bartolotta, who he worked with for nearly 20 years.
“I’m not part of the Bartolotta Restaurants anymore,” he says. “But I feel like Joe Bartolotta is part of what I’m doing. He mentored me up to this point, and he taught me a great deal about building a team and taking care of customers.”
Lupi & Iris is currently hiring for all positions, including kitchen staff and management. Serious inquiries can be directed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.