When Sue and Pete Venturi walked away from their North Avenue deli five years ago, it wasn't because of the economy.
Or because they didn't love it anymore.
Or because they couldn't bear making one more batch of their beloved bow tie pasta salad.
'The business was good. We had something nice. We were happy. Our customers were happy. But we had two kids, the building, the business. We were just kind of burning out,' Sue Venturi explained. 'We thought we could just live simply and blend back into the background and spend time with our kids.'
So, after 14 years in business, they left.
The once-popular Venturi's Market & Catering became Fattoni's deli, which closed in 2014, then sat empty until last year when the Venturis ventured to make a comeback.
'The place needed life,' Venturi said.
That revival has come with Tosa Bowl and Bun, a play on the building's history as a basement bowling alley and the bar-born tradition of Sunday ham and rolls, or buns.
(Quick history lesson: Bars began offering the Milwaukee staple decades ago to attract Sunday customers, who all but abandoned their local taverns in favor of that other age-old Milwaukee past-time — going to church, Venturi said. But, we digress.)
While rich in history and back story, Venturi admitted that, nearly a year into their new venture, she does wonder about the name.
'I kind of feel like we shot ourselves in the foot,' Venturi laughed. 'Every couple of days we have an old customer come in and say, 'Hey! You're back?' or 'I wish I knew it was you.' But, honestly, I never thought to call it Venturi's again. We were out of business so long.'
Gone, but not forgotten, apparently, along with all their old staples.
'We do basically the same thing we did before, with homemade soup, chili, salads, deli sandwiches, and we do a homemade dinner every night,' Venturi said.
They still offer frozen soups and dinners for to-go customers, although there are also dine-in options, something the Venturis never really explored in the old days. They also have a full bar, a Friday fish fry and a light breakfast menu on Sundays.
'It's really fun to be back and making some of people's old favorites: the chicken salad, the ham and rolls on Sunday and the bow tie pasta. And you only connect with that when you're here,' Venturi said.
They've also been able to maintain the connection with their kids, both in high school now and working at the deli.
'Seeing them take the pride in the name and the job — that's fun and totally unexpected,' Venturi said.
Those opportunities have made the work of rebuilding — and the part-time job Venturi works outside the restaurant to help make ends meet — worthwhile, Venturi said, especially for two cooking-school sweethearts who wondered if they really could have it all.
Turns out, they just might.
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS:Tosa Bowl and Bun, 7212 W. North Ave.
PHONE: (414) 210-2834
OWNER:Sue and Pete Venturi
INCORPORATED: June 2015
TYPE OF BUSINESS:restaurant and deli
PEARLS OF WISDOM: 'Weaving ourselves back into the community has been great.'