Food Fight Restaurant Group is preparing to open its 20th restaurant, this time on Madison's east side. A neighborhood Italian place will take the company back to its roots.
The restaurant, which doesn't yet have a name, is tentatively slated to open by May in the historic Schenk-Huegel Building at the corner of Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street. Chocolaterian Cafe most recently had the approximately 3,500 square-foot space at 2004 Atwood Ave. until a fire in February 2018.
Caitlin Suemnicht, Food Fight's chief creative officer, described the planned spot as "stylish but not too fancy," with about 85 to 90 seats. Giovanni Novella, currently at Fresco, will be the chef.
The vibe will be date night appropriate but family friendly, too, Suemnicht said, and they're likely going to take reservations.
"It's worked for us well at Cento, but we wanted to get back to our roots in that neighborhood, with more of a neighborhood feel," Suemnicht said.
Food Fight is working with Sketchworks Architecture in Middleton and Art & Sons on graphic and interior design. The owner of the building, Peder Moren of Moren Investments, is also the director of Food Fight's board.
Sumenicht said the building has been under construction for the past six months. Designers are "trying to keep as much as possible" in the building, which was a grocery store for many years in the early 20th century.
"The neighborhood has been really booming," Suemnicht said. "Good restaurant groups are always trying to open a restaurant that fits the taste of the neighborhood."
The new restaurant goes in across from Tex Tubb's Taco Palace, a Food Fight restaurant since 2006 at 2009 Atwood Ave. That's also where Food Fight opened its second restaurant, Pasta Per Tutti, which was open from 1993 to 2003.
"It's really about the neighborhood," Suemnicht said. "We love Atwood. Monty's (Blue Plate Diner) was our original restaurant."
Food Fight's recent restaurant openings and renovations include Canteen on the Capitol Square, the vegetable-focused Everly, Miko Poke and Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar.
Italian food has a soft spot in Food Fight founder Monty Schiro's heart.
"Monty's Italian through and through, and Pasta Per Tutti was his baby," Sumenicht said. "We wanted to do Italian food back in the neighborhood where it all started for us."