Wink Hartman Sr. is contemplating putting a new restaurant concept in his former Bella Donna space, which sits back from Webb Road just south of 21st Street. “I will not deny that,” Hartman says. “We’re working on the concept. It’s one of those things I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s a typical Wink Hartman deal.” So, you don’t know what you’re doing. Sure you want to say that in print? “I don’t care,” Hartman says. “I’m not running for office anymore.” And it’s not like Hartman is describing an amateur attempt. “Whatever it’s going to be,” he says, “it’ll be the best.” It won’t compete with his Chester’s Chophouse at the Waterfront. “Chester’s is the best restaurant in the Midwest,” he says.
Garozzo’s Ristorante was the first restaurant in the space and was open from 2003 to 2007. Bella Donna, an Italian concept, opened in 2007 and closed about a year later. “We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Hartman said at the time. “Of all the companies that I own, I anticipate that each of them will make a certain return on investment.” He says he didn’t try very hard to find another occupant for the building. “I mean, I put a sign out front, but it just wasn’t on the list of things I’ve got to get done tomorrow.” Hartman isn’t sure what concept he’ll choose. “That’s the problem. I just don’t know.”
He wants to make a decision quickly, though.
Jeremy Wade is going to be Hartman’s executive chef, so that means he’s out of A.V.I., the new restaurant coming to the Drury Plaza Broadview, and Jeremy Wade Catering.
“I don’t blame him one bit,” says Ben Arnold, Wade’s former partner in the two ventures.
Wade didn’t return a call for comment, but Arnold says the two have discussed the situation and his decision to leave A.V.I.
“The restaurant is not going to be a limelight restaurant like he wants, honestly,” Arnold says.
People who are already downtown or are coming to events downtown might stop by, Arnold says, but it won’t be a destination restaurant for Wichitans.
“That’s not going to be a place where everybody on the far east or far west side says, ‘Let’s go eat.’ He wanted to be somewhere more glamorous.”
Hartman’s east-side space, Arnold says, “is a home run compared to downtown.”
“It was a question of, ‘Do I live a secluded life of being downtown in a hotel restaurant?’ ”
Arnold, who also has Corporate Caterers of Wichita, is now searching for a new chef for A.V.I., which will open in late September.
He also needs a chef for his more upscale catering company that had been named for Wade.
It’s now called Culinary Catering.
In an e-mail, Arnold joked about keeping the name the same.
“I am looking for another chef named Jeremy Wade so I do not have to reprint the menus or re-logo the truck.”
You don’t say
“I said, ‘Oh, no, no, this is too much fun.’ Plus they wouldn’t say what I’ll say.”
— Wink Hartman Sr. on having a new Twitter account (@WinkHartmanKS) that he’ll do himself instead of taking an offer from a couple of employees to do it for him