By Mario Ziino Published Nov 17, 2003 at 5:42 AM

(Note: As of April 2004, this establishment's name has been changed to Club 728. Stay tuned for more information.)

{image1} Slip on the spats and stroll into a yesteryear distinguished by black velvet and ruby red roses. Enter Milwaukee's latest fashionable lounge -- anchoring the west end of historic Brady Street -- befitting the sheer mystique of Hollywood in the days of silent movies and the legend of America's first Latin lover. Welcome to Rudolph Valentino.

An establishment oozing with the heartthrob's fable and fantasy, Rudolph Valentino brings an alluring flavor of Tinseltown, both in appearance and carte du jour.

Located at 728 E. Brady St., Rudolph Valentino is about sophistication -- the type that defined the young actor's engaging charisma, and the mystery of the "Lady in Black" who draped his crypt with a bouquet of red roses every year following his sudden death.

Rudolph Valentino has a confident look and feel about it, distinctive of Hollywood's once chic nightlife and the man who symbolized its passion on the silver screen. It's the type of lounge where one would've expected Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra to hang out at after hours.

Rudolph Valentino tastefully beams with nostalgia. From its black art deco tables graced by a single-vase rose to its Steinway piano (emblematic of the one that adorns New York's Essex Hotel) to its stunning original portrait of Rudy Valentino poised behind a lavishly contoured bar to its elegantly framed motion picture playbills trimming the striking dining quarters, Valentino is a perfect nightcap for downtown theater goers.

The inspiration for Rudolph Valentino comes from living kinfolk. The actor's great-grandson, Rudy Valentino, is now involved in theater productions in Milwaukee. He has partnered with restaurateurs Dominic DiSalvo and Mary Browning to introduce this uniquely hip enterprise.

"People would constantly approach Rudy, inquiring about places to go after theater shows," manager Jim Wanke says. "In his mind, he envisioned a place just like Rudolph Valentino. It's a place to unwind after a show or play. It's trending but still low-key enough where you can go for a nice cocktail and quite conversation."

A year in the offing, Rudolph Valentino had its grand opening on Sat., Oct. 25 --red carpet and all.

The dining area seats 100 and there's a VIP area in the back which allows for a private gathering up to 20.

"They will have their own private wait staff as well as a private restroom," Wanke points out.


The menu features 14 appetizers and according to Wanke, "When we say appetizers, we stress very large portions."

The list of hors d'oeuvres includes a number of house favorites such as calamari, coconut shrimp, Sicilian shrimp and spiedini.

"I've been in the restaurant business for a long time and this is the finest menu," Wanke says. "Our food is phenomenal. Our menu is chic and plentiful."

Chef John Schaf also prepares a fare of four salads -- Oriental, Italian, Caesar and spring. Five delightful desserts will satisfy any sweet tooth.

"He does the best Tiramisu I've ever had, and by looking at me you can instantly tell I'm not lying," Wanke jokes of his weakness for the heavy cream whipped mascarpone cheese served on a bed of espresso dipped ladyfingers. "He'll prepare some other chocolate desserts, including a raspberry cheesecake, a fudge brownie stack and a pecan shortcake to die for."

In addition, Rudolph Valentino has an attractive list of signature cocktails and martini's that sets it apart from other lounges.

Creatively, all 20 signature drinks are named for Rudolph Valentino movies.

Wanke offered his favorites, including the Passion Playground (1920) which is made with Asti Spumanti, passion fruit nectar and a splash of Remy Martin Cognac. The Blood and Sand (1922) is made with Absolut Bloody Mary, horseradish and garnished with a shrimp. Uncharted Seas (1921) is prepared with Bacardi Ocho Rum and guava juice on the rocks.

Topping the list of specialty martinis is the Stolen Moments (1920), a caramel apple blend of UV 80 Vodka, Apple Pucker, Midori and caramel coffee syrup.

"People in the neighborhood have been excited for us to open," Wanke adds.

For Brady Street and its limited parking situation, Rudolph Valentino has the luxury of providing its own private off-street parking lot directly behind the building.

Customers will quickly notice the attention to detail when visiting Rudolph Valentino.

Live entertainment is part of its weekend plans. Milwaukee jazz vocalist, Jerry Grillo will perform each Saturday in November. There is no cover charge.

"We strive for perfection and we really want to go that extra step for our customers," Wanke says. "That's what we are about. You can go anywhere and get good service. Here we want it to be perfect service."

With the opening of the new downtown Milwaukee Theatre, Rudolph Valentino will definitely compliment a night on the town.

Rudolph Valentino's, 728 E. Brady St., (414) 727-1779, is open weekdays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. and weekends, 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Serving until midnight on weekdays and 1:30 a.m. on weekends.