Fuego Cantina, a Mexican restaurant at 3755 Grand Blvd., closed March 19, becoming the latest restaurant casualty at that downtown Brookfield location.
Reached last week, Fuego owner Pete Calvetti confirmed he had closed the restaurant’s doors after a final night send-off that included friends and family. Calvetti said dwindling business and high rent contributed to the restaurant’s demise.
“It’s just lack of support,” said Calvetti, who formerly operated a hot dog stand and a martini bar in neighboring Riverside. “When we first opened business was good, and I was trying to hold out for summer, when our patio opens and our business doubles.”
Also playing a part in Calvetti’s decision to close the restaurant, he said, was that he took on a full-time job in December 2015 as food service director at Malcolm X College.
“I tried to keep both going, but I was working 90 to 100 hour weeks and didn’t have the staff to hold it down.”
Fuego Cantina opened in the pie-shaped, 1,200-square-foot space at the corner of Grand and Prairie in January 2014. The restaurant seated 55 and touted menu specialties such as its signature cheese dip appetizer, specialty drinks and Mexican combo plates.
Calvetti said that while the restaurant had its fans and detractors, he was stung by what he considered unfair criticism on social media from locals.
“Unfortunately there’s so much negativity out there,” Calvetti said. “You invest $50,000, $60,000 in the community and people come in one time and just put it out there once they get home.”
Calvetti said he hopes to continue catering private events and village events, such as the Fourth of July celebration.
“That’d be a nice treat for me,” Calvetti said. “I still love it and have a lot of good memories. It’s going to be missed.
“Right now I’ve got to do the best thing for my family.”
Anthony Panzeca, the manager of the building, said the ownership has contacted a Realtor to market the space, but said there’s no tenant lined up at the moment. Asked if the small space might be a tough sell, Panzeca disagreed.
“I don’t think it will be difficult because of the location,” Panzeca said. “With that particular location, we won’t have trouble renting it.”
But the location has been a difficult one for businesses during the past 15 years or so. Since 2001, the space has housed four different restaurants, including Luna Café, a retro American diner; Trattoria Gemelli, an Italian bistro; and Xni-Pec, which served the cuisine of the Yucatan peninsula and had been named twice to the Michelin Bib Gourmand list.
None of those restaurants lasted more than four years in the space.