By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 20, 2024 at 10:02 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

On Monday, we announced that Riverfront Pizzeria had quietly closed its doors at 509 E. Erie St. in the Historic Third Ward.

But the restaurant space won’t be empty for long. Chef Ramses Alvarez and partner Shannon Rowell – who has worked alongside Alvarez to launch his private chef business as well as Brew’d Burger Shop and Dia Bom – have announced plans to open a  Mediterranean-inspired concept in the 6400 square foot riverfront restaurant.

Riverfront PizzeriaX

The concept, which has not yet been named, will take full advantage of the restaurant’s sunswept dining room, riverfront patio, wood-fired oven and spacious kitchen, to produce a menu of inspired fare that takes inspiration from a variety of Mediterranean climes including France, Spain and Portugal.

Alvarez says the new concept will capitalize on the experiences he has accumulated throughout his career – which has included work with Sandy D’Amato of Sanford and Coquette Cafe, the Bartolotta Restaurants, Mason Street Grill and La Merenda – along with inspiration he has gleaned from travel. 

“I have been dreaming of a restaurant that will allow me to truly utilize all of the techniques, flavors and ingredients that I’ve worked with over the years,” he says. “And this is the perfect location to execute the concept I’ve always wanted.”

Alvarez says there are a variety of details that need to come together, including the acquisition of licensure and approvals from the city. But if all goes well, he hopes that they can open the restaurant as soon as April.

Trading one dream for another

Alvarez has spent the past two years focused on Dia Bom, a fusion concept he and Rowell launched at Crossroads Collective and which he originally planned to re-open as a brick and mortar restaurant inside the Lincoln Warehouse in Bay View. But Alvarez says that he has put those plans on hold.

“I love Dia Bom with my all of my heart,” he says. “But we’re going to put that to sleep for now so that we can focus all of our energy on the new restaurant.”

That includes making a variety of cosmetic changes to the bright 6400 square foot restaurant, including fresh paint and plentiful artwork, some garnered from building owner Peter Renner’s personal collection.

From there, he says, they will focus on creating an environment that centers upon the restaurant’s wood-fired oven.

“About 40% of the menu will be prepared in that oven,” he says, noting that they will continue to offer a variety of wood-fired pizzas, along with wood-fired vegetable dishes, whole fish and potentially even dry-aged wood-fired burgers. 

“We want to create a restaurant that’s accessible to everyone,” Alvarez says. “... the sort of place where someone can sit down and enjoy a nice night with a glass of wine and a pizza or a cocktail and another memorable dish.” 

To that end, Alvarez and Rowell will be collaborating with a local mixologist to develop a cocktail program that incorporates a variety of unique drinks that they have experienced and enjoyed during their travels together.

Once open, they also plan to make good use of the restaurant’s private event space by hosting upscale dinners and offering the space to the public for special gatherings and events.

While the restaurant will start with dinner service, Alvarez says that over time they would like to expand their offerings to include weekend brunch with a live DJ. There’s also potential, he says, that he might open the restaurant in the morning to offer coffee, breads, pastries and a small menu of breakfast items.

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.