Port Hotel buyer a familiar face

Owner of Tello’s Grille, architect purchase landmark downtown building, plan to operate supper club-like restaurant and inn with freshened look

WORK TO GIVE the Port Hotel a fresh new look inside started in earnest this week. Standing outside the landmark restaurant Tuesday were new owners Jim Read (left) and Angel Tello (right), along with Tello’s son Angel III. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Hotel, which for decades was one of Port Washington’s landmark restaurants, was purchased last week by another of the city’s successful restaurateurs — Angel Tello.

Tello bought the building with Jim Read, an architect who owns the historic Hoffmann House building in which Tello’s Grille and Catering is located, for $775,000, Read said.

“Now it’s time for Angel to own a building,” Read said, noting the two of them looked at the building the first week it went on the market and decided it would be a good investment for them.

“We like the direction Port is going in,” he said. “We’ve been watching it. And we want to be part of that.”

Read said the pair plan to operate the hotel, bar and restaurant much as it had been in the past, but with an updated feeling.

The building will continue to have the Port Hotel name, but they will have a unique name for the restaurant and bar, he added.

Read said the men plan to freshen the look of the facilities, giving them a little more casual and comfortable feeling.

The restaurant will be operated by Tello with a supper club atmosphere, Read said, emphasizing it won’t look or feel like Tello’s other eatery, which he will continue to run.

“We think there’s still a demand for a supper club,” he said, adding that the menu will be updated along with the decor.

The restaurant will also have an event space, he added. 

The bar will also be updated, and elegant tapas, or small plates, will be served there, Read said.

“We’re still working on the menu and building a team,” he said. “We’re thinking about what kind of finishes we’re going to add.”

They are also working to integrate the outdoor patio into the restaurant, perhaps creating a garden room that’s connected to the bar, Read said. They are also looking at the possibility of cooking out on the patio.

“I don’t think it was ever used to its potential,” Read said.

The building’s 10 rooms will also get a refresh, Read said, noting they all have a period feeling popular in the 1980s and are geared toward getaways for couples.

“In today’s world, I don’t think it works as well as it once did,” he said. “It kind of excludes the fisherman and his son who are looking for a place to stay or the mother and daughter taking a shopping trip.” 

They’re also looking at opening the rooms for extended stays, especially for business travelers and holiday stays, Read said.

A common kitchen and lounge will help compliment the rooms, he said adding they are talking to a number of airbnb owners to help formulate their plans.

“There have been all sorts of advances in how people vacation,” he said. “We’re hoping to capture that.”

They are adding an elevator to the building to make it easier for guests to get to the rooms, most of which are on the third floor, he added.

Read said that the men hope to open the bar and at least some of the rooms first, with the entire facility open soon after.

“We’re talking about months, not seasons,” he said.

Read and Tello are hoping to continue the Port Hotel’s legacy, which began in 1835, when it was constructed as a hotel and tavern. It operated under various owners until the hotel closed in 1973, but the restaurant survived.

Joe Zankl purchased the Port Hotel from longtime owners Dave and Debbie Wickesberg in 1997, and in 2005, he returned the business to its roots by opening the 10-room inn.

Zankl closed the restaurant in 2017, and later leased the restaurant to Ashley’s Bar-B-Que, but that proved a short-lived venture.

The inn closed its doors in 2019, and Port Washington State Bank purchased the building the following year. It was purchased earlier this year by RSF Investments LLC of Cedarburg. Owner Ryan Fitting said he and his wife had pursued several potential tenants but they fell through, so they put the building back on the market.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login