Architect: Rinka Chung Architecture Inc.
Owner: Za Man, LLC
Contractor: ADK Design
Pizza Man has been an iconic Milwaukee institution since the 1970s. In January of 2010, the restaurant burned to the ground. After loyal fans encouraged the owners to rebuild, Pizza Man returned to Milwaukee’s East Side after a three-year hiatus. The success of the rebuilt restaurant invigorated the owners to open a second location at the new Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa. The intimate yet urban aesthetic of the original historic Pizza Man has now been successfully re-introduced into a former industrial space with exposed steel trusses and 25 foot ceilings at Pizza Man-Wauwatosa. Entering through a cavernous dark vestibule, the restaurant opens into a double height dining room and bar area with custom designed reclaimed wood dining booths. The high ceilings of the existing space created a unique opportunity for a 2nd floor mezzanine overlooking the main space. A four-seasons patio with full height operable glass garage doors is positioned adjacent to the main dining room and two private glass enclosed dining rooms with custom built wine display shelves dot the perimeter. Dining chandeliers and furniture designed by local artisans are located throughout the project.
The Mayfair Collection, an outdoor mall which once stood as an outdated warehouse in a prominent and visible location, now houses large anchor tenants such as Nordstrom Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sacks Off 5th, and soon a Whole Foods. The interior of the strip mall, however, retains the industrial feel and scale of an old warehouse space. Although Pizza Man-Wauwatosa is not an ideal tenant for a retail strip mall such as this the owners were able to create a destination that removes customers from their surrounding context and creates a cozy, intimate atmosphere that the original location once provided. Outdoor space in a strip mall is not highly desirable, but the glass enclosed atrium and integrated indoor/outdoor dining provides an elegant and unique contribution to the complex.
An intimate and cozy re-interpretation of an iconic Milwaukee restaurant – Pizza Man-Wauwatosa, bridges the gap between large big-box retailers and locally owned businesses. Understanding what made the original Pizza Man so successful and re-creating the eclectic old-world atmosphere in a busy, fast paced retail corridor was one of the main challenges of the project. Pizza Man-Wauwatosa incorporates more private dining and event space, wine room, four season room, and two levels of seating to accommodate nearly 300 guests.
Pizza Man-Wauwatosa acts as a model for local retailers to both compete and coexist with national chain brands in a highly suburban context. This restaurant changes the dynamic of the typical suburban strip mall by integrating and promoting small business. Pizza Man-Wauwatosa promises to change the perception of a typical strip mall by re-inventing the manner in which users experience what is usually a homogenous retail environment. The restaurant accomplishes this by providing a break for suburban dwellers living in a world of repetitive and seemingly never ending chain stores. Pizza Man brings back the urban/walkable feel and provides a sense of identity typically lacking in a car-centric single-use development.
Photos: Rick Ebbers