By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

The fate of a storied Italian restaurant in Wausau appeared sealed last May and many patrons mourned the loss of their favorite pizza – and gathering spot.

Angelo Volpe. Photo courtesy of Teresa Volpe

But now, nine months after Angelo’s Pizza Villa closed its doors, the original owner’s grandson is preparing to reopen the bar and restaurant, ensuring the Volpe tradition lives on. Elliott Johnson, grandson of founder Angelo Volpe, will relaunch the business in early March and will work alongside the rest of the family as they renew the restaurant’s legacy.

Angelo Volpe and his wife Janet semi-retired in 2014 when their son, Peter Volpe, took over day-to-day operations at the restaurant, which offered a robust menu of pizzas, Italian pastas and other favorites. Peter and his wife, Renee, then worked and managed the Wausau favorite together for 35 years. 

But in May, the family realized it was time for Peter to retire. Peter’s son, Pete, took the reins and, with his family’s full support, switched to producing wholesale frozen pizzas that are now available at a number of bars and grocery stores in the area. That successful effort will continue – but as one facet of the business, rather than the full focus. 

The restaurant closed in June, and members of the family thought that would be the end of a long chapter in Wausau’s history. But, they soon found they missed the public-facing aspect of the business. Now, the family will be back together as they restore a long-standing Wausau tradition.

From bar manager to the cranberry cranberry bog – and back again

Elliot Johnson, of Schofield. Photo by Kelli Oligney

It isn’t as though Johnson needs more to do. At 30, he’s already spent many years in the bar and restaurant industry and works alongside his father at Johnson Cranberry in Nekoosa, spending long hours in the bogs during harvest time and throughout the year. But as the idea grew, his goal of reopening his grandfather’s business took hold. Soon, what may have started as wishful thinking grew into a solid plan. Now, it’s become a reality.

Johnson said he is grateful for the opportunity to work together and keep the Angelo’s experience alive for generations to come. Peter, Pete Jr. and Angelo himself will all play a key role in the effort and the family will work side by side in the kitchen and in the restaurant moving forward.

Angelo said he is looking forward to being back at the restaurant.

Mckenzie Danielson, left, with her grandfather, Angelo Volpe. Photo courtesy of Teresa Volpe

Hiring underway, hours are set (and yes, they’ll have delivery)

Johnson is in the process of hiring staff, from bartenders to cooks to delivery drivers and servers. He’ll be hosting open interviews each Saturday starting Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside Angelo’s, 1206 N. Sixth St. until the restaurant reopens in early March. 

When the bar reopens, all of Angelo’s traditional favorite pizzas will be back on the menu, along with Italian sandwiches and salads. Johnson will also incorporate the original Pro Players’ popular chicken wing recipe to the mix as well. 

The restaurant itself will be open from 3 p.m. to close on Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to close on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with a full menu, during which time pizzas will also be available for delivery throughout the Wausau area. From Monday through Wednesday, when the bar is open from 3 p.m. to midnight, patrons can order a frozen pizza to enjoy, but the kitchen will be tied up to allow the wholesale operation to continue.

Johnson said it’s the best of both worlds, and an opportunity for his grandfather to get back into the kitchen to do the work he loves best.

“It’s all about family,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to having us all work together to keep my grandpa’s dreams alive.”

Visit Angelo’s Pizza Villa, 1206 N. Sixth St., Wausau, watch for their menu online and follow them on Facebook for updated details about the plan to reopen.