COMING IN AUGUST
Omaha restaurateur Willy Theisen has plans to, once again, change the restaurant scene in the heart of Dundee.
Theisen will open a new, yet-to-be-named restaurant across the street from Pitch Pizzeria, which he opened in 2009. He's hired Chef John Rea, formerly of M's Pub, to run the new kitchen.
"I know Omaha, and I know what they like to eat, and what they expect," said Theisen, who in 2012 sold his controlling interest in Pitch.
He started the first Godfather's Pizza in 1973 and sold the chain of 632 restaurants 10 years later.
Theisen hopes to open the new restaurant by August.
It will take up the two west bays in a building now under construction at 5018 Underwood Ave.
The name of the restaurant and its menu will be solidified in the coming months, Theisen said. He said the restaurant won't just serve breakfast — he has spoken of opening a breakfast spot in Dundee — but brunch is a possibility, as are lunch and dinner.
"All things are on the table right now," he said.
Theisen's longtime friend and fellow restaurateur David Hayes, who owns V. Mertz, among other spots, introduced Theisen to Rea. Rea worked at M's for six years, taking over as head chef in 2014, and he said that up until the explosion and fire last month that destroyed the restaurant, he had no plans to leave.
"When one door closes, another opens," Rea said.
As for the menu, Rea said he leans toward comfort food.
"The kind of food that makes people happy to eat again and again," he said, "and the kind of food that makes me happy to cook."
Theisen is leasing the restaurant space from Dr. Kurt Davey, who has plans to open a pediatric medical clinic in the building. The plans for the three-story building also call for it to be home to six apartments and to have a 15-spot parking lot behind the building.
The site was formerly home to Grandpa's C-Mart, which closed in 2012.
The restaurant will seat 87, Theisen said, and have a craftsman-style interior; he's working with local architects Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture on the design. The firm also designed Pitch.
Theisen said he wants to continue to be a part of Dundee's evolution. He feels a connection to the neighborhood and its residents, he said.
"I can't tell you how much I believe in Dundee," he said. "It's so magnetic and magical."