My great-grandfather was a sea captain that conquered the mediterranean, floated his way to Ellis Island and got rooted in Detroit. In the D, my grandpa Ambrose Bologna, peddled fruit and produce via horse and buggy. Eventually he purchased a truck to grow the business and in 1947 he opened B&B Produce & Meat Market.
My mom’s father, Al Brengman, aka Captain, opened his first restaurant at 260 Schweizer Place (just east of the Renasissance Center on the riverfront) in 1972. As you entered, straight ahead was a long mahogany bar with shinny brass glass holders hanging from the ceiling. To the right, a big dining room with oversized booths and brick archways. The walls were layered with recycled warehouse bricks and old wooden Vernors crates. The second story was for banquets and the third featured one of Detroit’s first rooftop bars overlooking downtown. It was a popular joint. Lots of sports fans enjoyed parking here and taking our shuttle to the Tigers or Red Wings games. Fan’s would often catch the players grabbing a bite at the restaurant after the game. Joe Bologna helped his father-in-law cooking, bar tending, and catering lunches for the nearby offices. I even heard a story that he helped construct the rooftop bar. Joe with a hammer. haha. Captain opened a second location in Grosse Pointe and third in Algonac.
My dad, Joe Bologna was ready to open his first restaurant in 1980 but Captain expanded his restaurant to give the young entrepreneur a few more years of practice. Finally in 1985 Joe and Adele opened Joe Bologna Trattoria in Sterling Heights.
In 1919, my great uncle Tom Morley founded Morley Candy Makers, in Detroit. My uncle Robert and Ed operate a winery, tasting room and banquet facility in Traverse City. My cousins across the border operate one of the largest tobacco and dairy farms in Ontario. For the past 100 years we’ve caught it, grown in, studied it and prepared it. Hospitality runs in our family. Buon Appetito