Anybody who has spent enough time in the Third Ward knows the Bella Caffe space – on the corner of Milwaukee and Chicago streets (189 N. Milwaukee St.). In fact, at one point in this magazine’s history, our business office was located right across the street. So I spent a fair amount of time there, popping in for coffee, a pastry or some soup. Bella closed in March 2020 after 19 years in business, and in the last year I’d driven by periodically and looked at that dark little storefront. It’s great news, then, that the space has a very tangible future, as another coffeehouse.
Valentine Coffee Roasters – which has its roastery/tasting room in Washington Heights (5918 W. Vliet St.) and a cafe in Oak Creek’s Drexel Town Square – recently announced it will anchor that corner of the Third Ward by opening a cafe. It’s going to take a bit of time to get the space ready so they’re realistically shooting for an opening sometime this summer. While respecting the natural details in the space (exposed brick and beams), they will give it a refresh.
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People didn’t just think of Bella as a place to pick up a coffee. It was also a popular lunch spot. Co-owner Joe Gilsdorf says this new Valentine cafe will fill the need for coffee, food and more. The kitchen there has some limitations (it doesn’t have a hood) so what they plan to offer is still in development, but Gilsdorf anticipates having sandwiches, soups and salads. There will also be items unique to this location. “We are listening to what people are asking for,” says Gilsdorf. He says they plan to serve a range of alcoholic beverages, as well.
In other Valentine news, the company is planning to build an 11,000-square-foot location in what will be the Makers Row mixed-use development in West Allis. That space will include roasting, grinding, packaging and distribution operations, as well as Valentine’s offices and a cafe.
As for the cafe-to-come in the former Bella digs, look for a summer 2021 opening.