Frank and Eloise Schmitz own the Central Avenue restaurants , and in . But their businesses are a family affair.
The restaurants are either co-owned or run by siblings Claus and Ellen Schmitz. Karl Schmitz, Frank and Eloise's son, is the bartender for Bocci Bar, the family's newest edition. It serves authentic Italian cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere. The inside of Bocci Bar offers a warmly lit bar and a semi-open kitchen. It has an olive green backdrop and warm wood tones. For the temperate fall climate, outdoor seating is available.
The offices for the restaurants are above Bocci Bar and seem more like the food and beverage department of a large hotel rather than the business component of several small neighborhood restaurants. Conference rooms, offices and waiting areas buzz with the sounds of phones, computers and emloyees making their way in to work.
During a recent visit, Eloise was dealing with transformer that fell behind Barcelona, a meeting in the conference room and other issues as they popped up. Anticipating that power would be temporarily shut off at Barcelona for the repair of the transformer, Frank prepared Bocci Bar sous chef Brett for more business. Seemingly unruffled, Brett continued to warm up sauces for the day.
While the restaurants have their own cuisine and personality, they are all part of the same business.
Barcelona has a more informal atmosphere with bright colors. It offers tapas—small plates of food that is served hot or cold and usually paired with alcohol. The idea is to encourage conversation and relaxation amond diners. Barcelona prides itself on serving authentic Spanish cuisine, including Serrano ham and bacalao.
The ham is served on a cheese plate with Spanish picos. The bacalao, or dried cod, is crispy and served with potato cakes and lemon garlic alioli. The small plates (and lower prices) encourage guests to order a variety of items for sharing and tasting, creating a whole meal.
Bocci Bar, though comfortable, is more formal, and the food is equally authentic. Offerings include the Acquacotta. The $6 item is a traditional Tuscan soup made with broth, mushrooms, plum tomatoes and basil topped with a poached egg. The traditional Formaggio and Salumi Board ($12) includes either Italian cured meats with mustard fruit or Italian cheeses with grilled bread and grapes.
For those who want both, the Antipasti Grandiose ($15) has it all: warm olives, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, salumi, marinated tomatoes, pepperonata and grilled foccacia. Diners who bring along lots of friends can share the dishes and immerse themselves in the cuisine. The arugula salad ($8) with figs, parmesan and candied prosciutto as well as the mussels ($10) tossed with fresh herbs, cherry tomatos and Gewurtztraminer are quite inviting.
Bocci Bar will have a seasonal menu, and guests are encouraged to dine Bocci Style. That means guests choose the main course, and then the chef selects a sampling of starters and sides for the whole group to enjoy.