Thanks to approval by Milwaukee’s Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday, a project is moving forward to turn the former Nautical Inn, 352 E. Stewart St. (at Hilbert Street) into an Italian restaurant called Santino’s.
Partners on the project are Greg Huber and Santo Galati, a second-generation Sicilian immigrant whose parents settled in Milwaukee’s Third Ward in the 1950s and eventually moved to the Bay View area.
"In my family, dinner was always an event," says Galati. "My mother was an excellent cook, and all of our problems were solved over dinner."
When she passed, Galati’s mother left behind a treasure trove of authentic Sicilian recipes for him and his sisters. Galati says that those recipes will form the basis for Santino’s menu, which would also include traditional pizza made in a wood-fired oven.
"I love the concept of wood-fired pizza," says Galati. "Whenever I visit relatives in Sicily, I always enjoy the pizza. There’s just something about using such extremely high heat to cook it that makes it like nothing else I’ve ever had."
Galati says it was love at first sight when he found and purchased the building.
"It’s as if the building wanted to tell me a story," he says. "I love the area with its quazi-industrial feel. And when I look at the building, I see an old Italian restaurant from New York."
In keeping, Galati says the goal will be to recreate an atmosphere reminiscent of the classic Italian restaurants of the 1930s and '40s, complete with a baby grand piano which would allow for live music, including jazz.
"The building is about 100 years old," he notes, "So I’d really love to try to get it back to as close to its former glory as possible. I love the look of tin ceilings and the vibe of old classic New York restaurants, so that will be the goal."
Galati says he’s already found treasures in the walls of the restaurant during demolition. An item of note includes an old 1940s vintage newspaper reporting news about World War II.
"It is actually in really great condition," he notes. "So, I’m hoping we can get it framed to hang in the restaurant."
Santino’s is expected to open sometime in 2016.
Watch OnMilwaukee for more details as they develop.
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.