After closing last summer, Scardina Specialties, the family-owned deli which has been serving up Italian staples like spiedini, meatball sandwiches and housemade sausages since 2012, will be reopening in a new location at 715 E. Locust St.
In fact, if all goes well, the Italian deli could reopen for business as soon as mid-summer. And owner Damien Scardina says that the deli plans to have a presence at the Locust Street Festival of Music & Art, even if the building isn’t quite finished yet.
Colpo di fortuna
Scardina Specialties, which was founded by Peter and Maria Scardina a decade ago at 822 E. Chambers St. – and which swiftly became a beloved staple in the Riverwest neighborhood – has been operated by second generation owner Damien Scardina since 2016.
Unfortunately, after two years of dealing with the hardships of the pandemic, Scardina was forced to close up shop when the City’s Department of Neighborhood Services issued a raze order for the building, declaring it “unfit for human habitation.”
Closing the doors of his business was tough, says Scardina. But, despite immediately beginning a search for a new location, he says the uncertainty was trying.
“For months, people have been stopping me to ask what was going on,” he says. “And I didn’t know what to say… because we really didn’t know what the future would bring. I had offers to re-open the business on the East Side and North Shore,” he says. “But I was born and raised in Riverwest, and I really wanted to keep the family business right here.”
Fortunately, he says, building owner Anne Maedke, made that dream possible by selling him the former Riverwest Healing Arts Center.
“She has always been an advocate for maintaining local ownership in the neighborhood,” says Scardina. “And she made it possible for me to stay in Riverwest. I’m grateful to her for selling me the building, and I’m grateful to Athena Agoudemos from SBDC who assisted me in getting all the paperwork together to make it happen.”
Scardina signed off on the building last week and he says demolition on the new location has already begun.
“We are ready to rock and roll,’ he says.
A bigger, better Scardina
Longtime fans of Scardina Specialties have a great deal to look forward to as the deli moves into its new home, which is more than double the size of its former quarters.
In fact, Scardina says that means he’ll not only be able to upgrade to a full-sized kitchen, but also add a small cafe-style area with 10-12 seats where hungry guests can linger to enjoy a sandwich.
Plans for the space, he says, were drawn up by local architect Keith Stachowiak, and the build-out will be completed by Geoff Gurgle of Satyba Build.
“We’re going to be able to do way more here,” Scardina says, noting that guests can expect a menu of all their favorite items from housemade sausages (Hungarian, bratwurst and Italian) to hot ham and rolls. “But we’ll also be adding a few pasta dishes.”
Scardina says he’ll also apply for a Class A liquor license, which will allow him to carry bottled Italian wine and beer, along with a selection of craft brews from local breweries like Black Husky, Company, Gathering Place and Lakefront Brewing, which actually got its start in Riverwest inside the same building where Scardina Specialties operated for nearly a decade.
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.