If only there were a place where you could get great pizza and other delectable dishes, live music with no cover charge and reasonably-priced adult beverages.
Well, you’re in luck!
Milwaukee has two such places.
There’s VIA Downer Pizzeria (www.viadowner.com), 2625 North Downer Avenue (414-501-4510), on the east side and Transfer Pizza Café (www.transfermke.com), 101 West Mitchell Street (414-763-0438) on the south side.
These are two distinct eateries with different layouts and slightly different menus.
Both have live music every week and offer half-price bottles of wine on those musical nights to sweeten the deal for their very appreciative, regular clientele.
The thread that ties the two places together is the proprietor/impresario of both establishments, Russell Rossetto.
While other venues seem to be shuttering their stages at an alarming rate, Rossetto is thriving with a business model that has successfully morphed over time.
His affinity for live music goes beyond his playing a great slide trombone, which he will do at Transfer from time to time.
It is much more than that.
Rossetto taps into the pulse of the city and wants to be a vibrant part of it.
Whenever possible, Transfer and VIA strive to partner with local and regional producers.
Both locales offer their walls as a gallery for local artists and photographers to display their creativity.
Posters for events that promote music, education, help the environment and the like also are given space.
There are certain days when patrons get a discount for riding their bikes or taking public transportation to dine there.
“When we decided to open Transfer (March, 2008), we wanted to be a vital part of the community,” Rossetto said in an interview.
The space was occupied by a drug store for decades then a George Webb’s and another breakfast place before Rossetto’s vision took shape.
“We wanted to create a space and offer live music, whenever possible, in an urban setting.
“There are a lot of great musicians in the area and we wanted to tap into some of that talent.”
The Transfer House Band led by Neal Charles on keys with the incomparable Bill Martin on guitar and Andrew Wilson on drums was formed.
THB plays on Tuesdays year-round from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The wildly popular house red and other bottles of vino are half-price.
“We wanted to make something happen,” Rossetto said. “It (music) was pretty slow in the early months. It has worked well over the years.”
Brenda Smith lends her unmistakable vocal styling every other week.
Neal and the boys play the first set before opening it up to a cavalcade of local musicians who are invited to join in after the break.
Transfer also has live music on Thursdays with a mix of Latin trios performing from 7-10 p.m. while patrons sip on $5 margaritas and mojitos during the summer months.
Different jazz trios ascend the stage next to the entrance the rest of the year with other drink specials.
A unique take on brunch is offered on both Saturdays and Sundays.
VIA came along in early 2010 in the long-vacant space that was Pizzeria Piccola and Ristorante Bartolotta.
“At VIA, we wanted to repeat the same model,” Rossetto explained. “Live music and great food is a theme, an ambience.
“Now, Mondays are one of the busiest days in our week.”
As much as Rossetto would like to, he can’t pay a ton for the different groups.
There is a limited budget in order to have it make business sense.
The bonus for the performers is they get to scarf down pizza after they play.
“We get bands from Chicago, Ohio and New York willing to come here to perform,” Rossetto said.
They want a venue where they can play.
Thanks to Rossetto, his partners and crews at Transfer Pizza Café and VIA Downer Pizzeria, they now have two.
And these grateful musicians hope to have them for a long time to come.