The photos on the walls are not stock images, they are la mia famiglia. My great-grandfather was a sea captain that conquered the Mediterranean, floated his way to Ellis Island and got rooted in Detroit. There my grandpa Ambrose Bologna, peddled fruit and produce via horse and buggy.
Eventually he purchased a truck (see large photograph on wall) to grow the route and in 1947 he opened B&B Produce & Meat Market in Detroit. The original horseshoes, from the horse and buggy, and red produce scale, from the truck, are hanging in Rochester.
My mom's father, Al Brengman, aka Captain, opened his first restaurant at 260 Schweizer Place (just east of the GM building on the riverfront) in 1972. As you entered, straight ahead was a long mahogany bar with shinny brass glass holders hanging from the ceiling. To the right, a big dining room with oversized booths and brick archways. The walls were layered with recycled warehouse bricks and old wooden Vernors crates. The second story was for banquets and the third featured one of Detroit's first rooftop bars overlooking downtown. It was a popular joint. Lots of sports fans enjoyed parking here and taking our shuttle to the Tigers or Red Wings games. Fan's would often catch the players grabbing a bite at the restaurant after the game. Joe Bologna helped his father-in-law cooking, bar tending, and catering lunches for the nearby offices. I even heard a story that he helped construct the rooftop bar. Joe with a hammer. haha. Captain opened a second location in Grosse Pointe and third in Algonac.
In 1919, my great uncle Tom Morley founded Morley Candy Makers, in Detroit. My uncle Robert and Ed operate a winery, tasting room and banquet facility in Traverse City. My cousins across the border operate one of the largest tobacco, dairy and trailer manufacturers in Ontario. For the past 100 years we've caught it, grown in, studied it and prepared it. Hospitality runs in our family.
My dad, Joe Bologna was ready to open his first restaurant in 1980 but Captain expanded his restaurant to give the young entrepreneur a few more years of practice. Finally in 1985 Joe and Adele opened Joe Bologna Trattoria in Sterling Heights. This location was sold in 2020.
I literally grew up in a restaurant. Some of my earliest memories are sleeping on a cot in the office and pretending the dough mixer was a horse and trying to ride it. I'll never forget the time my 3rd grade class took a field trip to the restaurant! My classmates thought I was the coolest kid as we tried miserably to spin pizza dough in the air and catch it by our knuckles like my dad.
I would often come to work with my parents but they were so focused on 'running the business' I spent hours organizing and restocking the walk-in coolers and dry storage areas with guidance from my nonno. A few times a week my nonno and I would visit the Eastern Market where we would fill his station wagon with products for the restaurant. I accredit many of my organizational, planning, decision making and finance skills to those days spent with grandpa.
In 1996 my dad opened a second location in Clarkston. I began operating the Clarkston location in 2008 after I graduated from Johnson & Wales University. I opened the Rochester location in 2014.
The restaurant business is fuzed in my DNA. It is what I breath, think, do and sleep. I was born in an industry that dates generations of restaurant experience. The truth is there is a code to operate a restaurant and you'll find it in my DNA.