The building formerly home to La Rocca's Pizza on Willy Street will have a new tenant: Pigs in a Fur Coat. According to documents filed with the city of Madison, the target opening date at 940 Williamson will be March or April.
In the documents, owner Bonnie Arent describes the restaurant as cooking French, Italian and American fusion cuisine served tapas-style, evenings only (4 p.m.-midnight). Pigs in a Fur Coat will feature Wisconsin products, in-house cured meats and communal-style dining: "The idea is to seamlessly blend fine cuisine with a new type of brasserie." There will be little separation between the kitchen and the dining area, and decor will be minimalist, to focus attention on the food, sourcing, and the experience of dining.
"We want it to be fun fine dining," says Arent in a phone interview. She foresees a "niche in pork," but also rabbit, lamb, and venison.
She also admits feeling a bit "overwhelmed" by all the attention the nascent restaurant has been receiving, as they're just starting on the remodeling. While she does not foresee a lot of construction, the floors need to be replaced.
As for the offbeat name, it comes from when Arent's sister was serving in the Peace Corps and ran into the term "fish in a fur coat" in Kazakhstan, the name of an old-school peasant-style dish. The switch to "pigs" is a nod to the restaurant's pork-centric menu.
Arent, who has been manager and a bartender at the Brass Ring, also has a background in cooking. She studied in the culinary program at Madison College and the Apicius Culinary Institute in Florence, Italy. Dan Bonanno will be executive chef, Jonathan Huttsell will be sous chef; both come from Wild Truffle in Appleton, and Arent met them while all were studying in Italy. Items from the sample menu include nose-to-tail pork (feet, belly, jowls and ears), rabbit, lamb and venison, as well as seafood (from smelt to octopus) and several salads.