Wauwatosa native and chef Zachary Espinosa began his culinary career as a teenager working at Mayfair mall's food court at the since-closed 1 Potato Two restaurant.
Now, at 39, he's executive chef for three restaurants operated by Bartolotta Restaurants at Wauwatosa's Mayfair Collection shopping center. The eateries — a taqueria, a tavern, and a soon-to-be French bistro — share a central kitchen, which is something Espinosa said he's never seen in his more than two decades of experience in the food business.
'I call it the triple threat,' said Espinosa of the concept. The chef previously worked at Bartolotta's Harbor House, a seafood restaurant on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Milwaukee.
Co-owner of the restaurant group Joe Bartolotta has said the experimental idea could be 'genius.'
And so far, it's worked well, said Espinosa, adding there's still one restaurant that has yet to open — a French bistro called Cafe Grace, slated to open its doors July 19. The other two restaurants include a taqueria called El Jefe serving a variety of a la carte tacos, margaritas, Mexican beer and chips with salsa, and ABV Social, a tavern that offers an extensive selection of beer on tap, yard games and pub-style food.
Espinosa said working as executive chef at the three restaurants has allowed him to get creative and experiment with recipes, although he admitted he's working in his comfort zone in order to appeal to a broad spectrum of diners.
'I know how weird I can get,' he said.
The three restaurants make up a 17,000-square-foot space. Each has its own service line, but they all share a kitchen, which can boost efficiency and product utilization. They're owned by Phoenix Development Partners, which hired Bartolotta Restaurants to run them.
Bartolotta Restaurants operates nearly a dozen casual dining, fine dining and supper-club-style eating-out options in the Milwaukee area.
The threesome joins Osgood's, a fourth dining option operated by Bartolotta Restaurants, which opened to the public at The Mayfair Collection in November. The fast-casual restaurant features a double drive-through, Chicago-style hot dogs, barbecue, sandwiches and custard.
Development at The Mayfair Collection, located north of Burleigh Street, just east of Highway 45, is far from over.
Anchored by big-name stores like Nordstrom Rack, Dick's Sporting Goods, Saks Off 5th, DSW and Whole Foods, among others, a number of popular area restaurants are expected to join the lineup sometime this year. Milwaukee-based restaurant group Hospitality Democracy announced it would open an AJ Bombers, Smoke Shack and Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts inside a free-standing building on site.
The center will soon offer housing, too. More than 1,000 luxury residences will be constructed by Fiduciary Real Estate Development on land adjacent to The Mayfair Collection. Construction will take place over the next three to five years. The first 250 residential units are scheduled to break ground in spring 2016.