By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 04, 2023 at 4:31 PM

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Tavolino, the Italian restaurant at 2315 N. Murray Ave., has closed its doors.

The news was initially shared in a Facebook post on Monday, Oct. 2 with a message that simply read: "It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that Tavolino will be closed until further notice."

When we reached out to Tavolino Owner Peter Dietrich initially, he was unavailable to comment on the matter. 

In the interim, rumors began to fly about the reasons for the closure. Social media smoldered with accusations. Emotions ran high. Employees launched a GoFundMe to garner support for their lost wages. 

When we followed up with Dietrich, he agreed to share additional information by phone, which he did this afternoon, noting that the decision to close was purely financial.

"This is not how I envisioned the restaurant ending," Dietrich said, "Operating a business today is not easy. Starting a business in 2020 didn’t make it easier. Every time I thought we’d cleared the hurdles it was something else."

Dietrich says that the restaurant's recent closure due to smoke damage from a fire in the building didn't help. Their business interruption insurance covered lost wages for 60 days, which helped. But Dietrich says that the lost income insurance received was extremely minimal because the restaurant hadn't been turning a profit.

"Coming out of the fire, we were already under-capitalized," he admits.  "We'd lost sales from the three busiest months of the year while we were closed and our finances were not solid. There was little or no money in the bank and our lost wages insurance had ended."

Dietrich says that, under the circumstances, he thought it was in the best interest of everyone involved to reopen the restaurant.

"My thought was that we’d be able to sustain operations through new sales," he says. "And it just never happened."

Dietrich says he notified all of his employees about the closing on Monday, Oct. 2.

“Checks were supposed to go out to employees on Friday [Sept.29], but I had pushed it off," he says. "My plan was to pay all of the employees when I told them the news on Monday, but the money wasn’t there."

Dietrich says that he takes full responsibility for the situation.

"A wise friend once told me: 'There’s one thing that you should never mess with, and that’s your employees' livelihood.' And in this case, I’ve 100% failed them," Dietrich says.  "I am not passing the blame. They trusted me and this falls squarely on my shoulders."

Dietrich pauses.

"My employees are the ambassadors of the brand, and they keep the business running," he says. "So 'heart-broken' is not adequate to describe how I feel."

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.