Gentle Ben’s takes over Bacio and opens a Mexican restaurant in a Dutch space

One of University Boulevard’s most popular sports bars branches out into authentic Italian and Mexican cuisine.

In March, Gentle Ben’s picked up 2-year-old Bacio Italiano from University. Weeks later, Gentle Ben owners Richard Fifer, Russ Moore and Jennifer Treusch rented the space that had housed The Dutch Eatery & Refuge for five years. The Dutch Eatery & Refuge, located at the corner of University Boulevard and North Park Avenue, will soon become an open Mexican restaurant.

The owners of Gentle Ben intend to keep Bacio as an Italian restaurant, although Fifer said they are looking to add more lunch-friendly dishes, such as salads, and healthier, lighter options. .

Former Bacio owner Andrew Avella, a Staten Island native and University of Arizona graduate, said “the time has come” to sell the restaurant, which he opened in the fall of 2019.


The time had also come for Fifer from Gentle Ben’s.

“Every time we passed by Bacio, we commented on the beauty of the patio. On one such trip, Andrew had made a comment that made me think he would be interested in selling the restaurant. One thing led to another, we made an offer which Andrew accepted,” Fifer said.

They brought in a partner, Justin Fitzsimmons, who they say has an in-depth knowledge of Italian food. Fitzsimmons is the nephew of Daniel Scardato, owner of Vivace, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Catalina foothills.

Bacio is one of two new companies from the owners of Gentle Ben. Fifer said he and his partners will open Casa Agave in the former Dutch space in mid-July after carrying out work on the building.

“We also called on a partner for this location. His name is Jonah Gomes, he has extensive culinary experience and brings a lot to the table,” Fifer said.

Avella said the restaurant business can be tough and the hours spent on your feet can be exhausting, but he left open the possibility of launching another restaurant in the future.

“Gelato, bagels, takeout, anything easy,” Avella said. “You have to find the right location.”

Bacio is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and Fifer said he plans to keep the kitchen open until midnight.

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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