‘Johnny V’ Plans Major Expansion into Houston

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

Milwaukee restaurateur "Johnny V" Vassallo, the owner of Mo’s Restaurants, said he and an operating partner plan to open

several restaurants in Houston.

"I would say we’ll have at least 10 restaurants in Houston in the next five years," he said.

The first will be a Monsoon restaurant, which will open in a 7,500-square-foot space in The Shops at Houston Center, a downtown shopping mall at 1200 McKinney St., located about three blocks from the Toyota Center, which is the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

It will be Vassallo’s third Monsoon, which is an Asian fusion concept similar to P.F. Chang. The first Monsoon opened last year at 811 N. Jefferson St. on Cathedral Square in downtown Milwaukee. The second opened last month at 17800 W. Bluemound Road in Brookfield.

"It’s doing very well downtown," Vassallo said. "It’s been doing incredibly well in Brookfield, which is the best opening we’ve had by far."

The Houston Monsoon will open on Oct. 9 in a 7,500-square-foot space that was previously occupied by another restaurant, Vassallo said.

"It fits there," he said. "There was already a steakhouse and a seafood place in the mall, so we were already boxed out of those concepts."

Vassallo said he likes the demographics of Houston, which is the fourth- largest city in the nation with about 2 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"And they eat out more than people in any other city in the country," he said.

Vassallo said he is also working on plans to open two restaurants in New York City, most likely a Moceans and a Mo’s Irish Pub. Currently Vassallo has a Moceans at 747 N. Broadway and a Mo’s Irish Pub at 142 W. Wisconsin Ave., both in downtown Milwaukee. In late November, he plans to open a Mo’s Irish Pub at the northwest corner of Bluemound Road and Highway 100 in Wauwatosa.

In New York, Vassallo said he is in negotiations for three different spaces, including one in a 72-story building owned by Donald Trump at 40 Wall Street.

Vassallo said he will only move forward with his plans in New York if he can strike deals with two locations. Having only one location there wouldn’t be worthwhile, he said.

Vassallo has said his goal is to own over 200 restaurants across the county. He currently owns eight. In addition to the two Monsoon locations, Moceans and Mo’s Irish Pub, he owns Mo’s A Place for Steaks in downtown Milwaukee and downtown Indianapolis, Mo’s Cucina in downtown Milwaukee and Mocha in downtown Milwaukee.

In addition, Vassallo said he is still considering plans to open a hotel in the Posner building at 152 W. Wisconsin Ave. Vassallo purchased the 98-year-old, 108,000-square-foot building last year. Mo’s Irish Pub and Mo’s Cucina occupy space in the building.

Vassallo said the Posner building, which he recently renovated, is an ideal location for a new downtown hotel. However, at least 10 other hotel projects are being planned in or near downtown.

Vassallo also said he has received three letters of intent from buyers interested in purchasing the Posner building. He said he would sell the building for the right price.

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