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Venice Club to give thanks at Summerfest

The former Venice Club sits vacant at 1905 N. Calhoun Road after the restaurant was closed last month.

The former Venice Club sits vacant at 1905 N. Calhoun Road after the restaurant was closed last month. Photo By Geoff Bruce

June 24, 2014

Fans who have found themselves missing the Venice Club will have another chance to sample one of their signature dishes this weekend.

Casper and Sara Balistreri will team up with Summerfest to turn back the clock and offer their French-fried eggplant at their venue near the Harley Davidson Stage at Summerfest this Saturday, June 28.

"After 40 years as a vendor down there, we thought it would be a nice gesture to roll back the prices to where they were back in 1974," Casper said. "It was 65 cents back then. We're going to be offering it as a sort of 'thank you' to everybody in the city of Milwaukee."

The special price will be available to Venice Club fans and newcomers alike from noon to 3 p.m. June 28. Casper had requested a different time window for the bargain buy; however, Summerfest officials expressed concern over the effect on other vendors.

The Venice Club's Summerfest fun will also extend into the second week of the event with the stand hosting a reunion for all past employees.

"We're inviting all of our past employees over the 40 years to come to the stand on the Fourth of July. From noon to 4 p.m., we're giving all of our employees a special, commemorative 40th anniversary pen and asking them to sign a book," Casper said. "We would like to keep in touch with all of these people."

The Balistreris are still in the process of moving out of their former restaurant. The Venice Club closed its doors May 9 after 67 years in business, including 31 in Brookfield.

Casper and Sara ran the restaurant for 24 years before selling it to Casper's sister; however, Antoinette "Toni" Radler passed away in January of 2013 from lung cancer.

"When she passed away, my wife and I felt we had to go back into the restaurant to run it for the estate until the decision was made on what to do with it," Casper said. "We tried to buy it, but they refused both of our offers."

A sheriff's auction was scheduled for the property last month; however, according to the Waukesha County Register of Deeds, the property remains owned by AMR Real Estate.

Moving forward

The restaurant was started in 1947 by Casper's parents and was, at that time, located in downtown Milwaukee. In 1983, Casper and Sara moved the Venice Club to Brookfield where they ran it until 2006.

"It's a shame," he said. "We had customers coming in actually crying. People would come in and talk about how we'd done their baptisms, rehearsal dinners, weddings and funerals. So many customers and friends came to just be a part of it at the end. The restaurant was extremely busy toward the last few days."

Moving forward, Casper chuckled at the mention of retirement.

"It's kind of difficult" he said. "We've been active for so long; quite honestly we're afraid to retire."

After selling the restaurant to his sister, Casper started his own sausage company. He plans to focus his efforts on said venture in the coming years.

"We make one item — we make Italian sausage," he said. "It's doing very well. We sell it at the farmer's market in Brookfield every Saturday, and we also sell it to restaurants."

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