Back in June 2005, The Capital Times' Samara Kalk Derby reported Paisan's would be moving to 131 W. Wilson Street, a move forced by the impending destruction of University Square. At that time, the owners hoped to move in January 2006 and re-open a month later. Didn't happen. Paisan's stayed in its University Avenue location until shortly before the wrecking crew arrived to demolish it. We heard reports Paisan's would open at the 131 W. Wilson Street location in mid-May. Didn't happen. Mid-June? Didn't happen. Mid-July? Still hasn't happened. When is it going to happen? Here's the latest word, taped to the front door:
Why is it taking so long for Paisan's to re-open? While I haven't interviewed the owners, I did stop by Tuesday evening to have a look at what was happening and based on what I saw, I suspect a large part of the delay has to do with one factor: Build-out.
Paisan's is not only moving into the building on 131 W. Wilson Street, it's changing the shape of the building. I worked in a office located at 131 W. Wilson Street about a decade ago and it definitely did not have a bump back then.
The whole front section of the building with the rounded contour and the Paisan's sign is new. Ask anyone who's ever had to move people and equipment from one location to another location that requires build-out (and I count myself a member of that group), and they'll tell you there always seem to be delays. Work never seems to be finished quite on schedule (unless, perhaps, you have really deep pockets).
The window glass is dark and it's difficult to see what's inside, but right now this section seems to be filled with build-out equipment, not cozy booths and round tables. Further outside evidence that work is still in progress can be seen in the photo below:
What's striking about the way the restaurant is shaping up, however, is it apparent size. Paisan's is going to be using much more space than previous restaurant occupants of 131 W. Wilson Street. If you walk along the west side of the building (past the bump), towards Lake Monona, it seems evident that the restaurant is going to occupy a substantial portion of that side of the building, from front to back. When you reach the terrace overlooking the lake, you'll notice the restaurant seems to occupy most of the the rear portion of the building, and there may have been some build-out here, too. Plus Paisan's clearly plans to take advantage of the terrace in the warm months: The familiar outdoor furniture from the University Square location is already stacked outside on the terrace. Here are a few shots of the exterior of the rear section of the restuarant.
Part of the rear section resembles the front build-out. It's been a long time since I visited this area, but I suspect at least some parts of the section with the rounded contour is build-out.
Same section of the rear exterior, photographed from a slightly different angle.
The chairs and tables awaiting our return. The view is looking east (in the direction of 1 W. Wilson Street and Monona Terrace). The red brick building with the white balconies used to be apartments. Like almost every other piece of private property in Downtown Madison, it may now be condominiums.
A view of Lake Monona from the terrace.
Squelch your vertigo and peek over the terrace rails and you'll see railroad tracks.
Mary was sitting in front of 131 W. Wilson Street waiting for a ride and she told me she didn't mind being in my photograph. I asked if if she knew when Paisan's was opening. She'd read the sign on the door, so she told me late July or early August. Let's hope it's soon. Paisan's fans not only want to see the new space, they want to sink their teeth into its legendary thin-crust pizzas and Garibaldi sandwiches.
UPDATE (9/6/2006): Paisan's has finally opened!! Click HERE for recent news and links.