Trio buys former Vitucci’s building on East Side with plans to open new bar there

Remodeled establishment would have food, still cater to student crowd

Three business partners have purchased the former Vitucci's bar, 1832 E. North Ave., with plans to reopen the establishment under a new name. (Cara Spoto/BizTimes)

Those bemoaning the abrupt closure of the Vitucci’s cocktail bar three years ago, may soon have something to toast to.

Three business partners who purchased the East Side building last week confirmed plans Thursday to reopen the establishment at 1832 E. North Ave. under a new name.

The bar could even have its doors open in time for football season, said Bryan O’Boyle, who purchased the bar along with friends Faisal Ahmed-Yahia and Adam Jansen.

“Well, we are going to be remodeling it quite a bit. We don’t have a name yet, but we are definitely going to be geared toward UW-Milwaukee students and the college-age crowd,” said O’Boyle who is also the CEO of Summit Clinical Laboratories. “We are going to move fast. Our goal is open up by Packers’ season, but we are not in a huge rush. We are all from the Milwaukee area. We have a lot of people here, including bartenders, who are excited to be a part of it.”

A Tucci’s blessing

The trio purchased the 88-year-old establishment late last week from a family trust belonging Michael and Lisa Vitucci, for $770,000. Michael Vitucci is referred to in the family as “Illinois Mike” to differentiate him from his cousin Mike Vitucci (“Milwaukee Mike”) who owns several bars in Milwaukee, including the Belmont Tavern, Izzy Hops, Caffrey’s, Murphy’s Irish Pub and Uncle Buck’s.

The bar, which was started by the two cousins’ grandparents Frank and Anna Vitucci in 1934 was for most of its history a tavern known of its entertainment, cocktails and Italian food. It became a haven for student revelers and music fans in the 1980s and onward. Both Mike Vitucci and Michael Vitucci worked at the bar, over the years.

The establishment was briefly run by younger family members when it closed without notice in November 2019.

Speaking this week, Michael Vitucci, who had helped to direct and co-manage the bar during its last 10-15 years in business, said he was excited for the new owners and expected them to make the establishment a “jewel of the East Side.”

“They are like kids in a candy store. They have so much enthusiasm,” said Michael Vitucci, adding that the new owners have ideas for using parts of the building, and will be making changes and updates that he and other family members never got a chance to.

“They are going to do terrific. If I was 20 years younger; if we didn’t have four people who owned it, it would have been easier to make those changes,” he said.  “It will be a welcome addition to the East Side.”

Signs of the times

As the new owners make their plans, Michael Vitucci said he has been trying to arrange for the bar’s iconic neon sign to be removed. Mike Vitucc has expressed an interest in displaying the sign, or one of the non-neon, but still very retro Vitucci signs in one his establishments, his cousin said.

The Milwaukee County Historical Society has also expressed an interest in getting one of the signs, and old menu from when the business still served an array of Italian specialties, Michael Vitucci said.

“There’s a two-sided parking lot sign. I might be able to sneak that one home without my wife Lisa noticing,” he joked.

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Cara covers nonprofits, healthcare and education for BizTimes. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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