The former DiModa Pizza & Hotspot on Milwaukee's East Side will soon become a new family-owned restaurant, called Tauro Cocina.
Slated to open this spring (by late March or early April) at 1758 N. Water St., the concept will serve a fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisine as well as craft cocktails.
Opening a restaurant has long been a dream of owner Alberto Valdepeña, who's built a career working in Milwaukee-area restaurants over the past 26 years. He recently purchased the historic building for $985,000, according to state records.
Valdepeña is a native of Mexico but gained most of his culinary experience cooking Italian food. After starting as a young bus boy in California, Valdepeña, moved to Milwaukee where he began cooking. He got a job in 2000 at Italian restaurant Louise’s, working at its downtown Milwaukee and Brookfield locations until both restaurants closed in 2018. Currently, he oversees the kitchen staff at Water Street Brewery in Oak Creek.
Louise’s and Water Street Brewery's four locations are all owned by local restaurateur R.C. Schmidt. In addition to his kitchen management role, Valdepeña has also been involved with the company's catering arm, which sells food at Summerfest and Wisconsin State Fair.
"You can find his picture in a few Sporkies awards," said Ahide Valdepeña, Alberto's wife who plans to help with front-of-house management at Tauro Cocina.
"Although I have very little experience in the restaurant business, I have over 20 years of management (experience) in banking and customer service," she said. "I hope I can be of assistance in some form or way."
The Valdepeñas' three sons will also pitch in. They each have a passion for and experience in service and hospitality - from cooking to restaurant management, said Ahide.
On the menu, diners will find dishes such as cilantro risotto with spicy grilled shrimp, cheese boards with manchego, panela and meats like jamon Serrano, spanish chorizos and prosciutto. With a focus on tequilas and mezcal, cocktails will include palomas, margaritas, and sangrias, among others.
The restaurant seats 99 people, with outdoor seating for an additional 28. The Valdepeñas plan to update the space with new paint, art and furniture while preserving as much of the original architecture as possible.
Prior to DiModa Pizza, the 132-year-old building housed Trocadero, owned by The Lowlands Group, for 16 years. Wild Planet Hospitality, which also owns Red Rock Saloon and McGillycuddy’s in Milwaukee, purchased the building in 2014 for $1 million. In 2017, Wild Planet opened DiModa Pizza, which closed in December of 2019.