Downtown News and Blog

Old World Charm Meets Old World Cuisine

August 21, 2018 Written by Kim Angeli

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Al fresco dining in downtown will get a taste of old world charm as Caffé Molise and BTG Wine Bar open the doors to their new location at the historic Eagle Building this summer. Partners Fred Moesinger and Aimee Sterling purchased the building, commonly referred to as “the Bay” by locals, after a three-year search for a downtown location to fit the needs of their established, popular businesses. The restaurant and wine bar’s current location is slated for future redevelopment, necessitating a move. With the purchase and renovation of the Eagle Building, Fred and Aimee are creating an iconic gathering space that blends the building’s neo-renaissance style with the celebrated fresh Italian cuisine, warm service and a bright future.
Caffe Molise 2

A Tall Order to Update a Historic Building

The Eagle Building had sat for some time in disrepair, and Moesinger’s excitement is palpable as the challenging project approaches the finish line. “It’s a grand old place,” says Moesinger. “Aimee and I are excited to be restoring it to former glory. We’ve been looking to buy a building for over three years, but nothing we saw met all of our needs.” It was important for Moesinger and Sterling to have a downtown location, a building with charm and also a patio—their former patio on 100 South was routinely voted a top patio in the city. “We feel fortunate to have found all those qualities in the Eagle Building,” says Moesinger. “Our business has grown, thanks to the support of our customers over the last 25 years, and we look forward to better serve them in our new space.” The Eagle Building has immense historical significance to the city, listed on both the Salt Lake City Landmark List and the National Historic Register. Upgrades to the building require design review to preserve the historical integrity of the space. The building is chock full of fine details and grand features that characterize its neo-renaissance style, with a nod to Italian roots. Visible markers of the style are the grand staircase, arched windows and openings, exposed brick, Egyptian-style pillars, and its three stories separated by horizontal ‘belts.’

Renovations Moesinger and Sterling had to make include adding an elevator for improved ADA access and service, landscaping and design of the balconies and patio for outdoor seating, and creating separate commercial kitchens for the dedicated menus at each business. The grand staircase on West Temple leads to the main dining room for Caffé Molise; and BTG Wine Bar’s separate entrance on 400 South, under the original antique awning, descends to the three-quarter basement. The upper level includes space for expanded seating, private events and banquets. With a grand patio and two balconies designed with shade and natural finishes, outdoor dining will be available to both restaurant and wine bar patrons. This promises to be an incredible space to while away the summer nights.

Maintaining A Storied History

When it comes to bringing people together over food and drinks, the Eagle Building has a long and varied history in Salt Lake City. Built from 1915 – 1916 to house the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the building was designed by renowned architect Nils Edward Lilienberg. The Order was a social club founded by theater owners in Seattle for those working in the industry to organize, recreate and party while touring the country’s theater cities. Eagle buildings appeared across the country in cities with vibrant theater scenes, including Salt Lake City—home to 12 operating independent theaters, including the Orpheum, Utah Theater and Capitol Theatre. While the Order worked on timely issues, such as labor laws and medical services, it was also known for boisterous parties frequented by touring Vaudeville actors. One can imagine the scene here as the night unfolded with flowing drinks, dancing, card games and underground boxing matches. The Fraternal Order of the Eagles left the building during the Great Depression, then from the 1950s – 1980s, it was home to Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company. In the 1990s, the building went through a major renovation becoming the Bay, followed by a decade of revolving dance clubs. Remember Club Vortex and the swimming pool built for Club Splash? Before Fred and Aimee purchased the building, it sat vacant for several years, a ghost of good times past lurking on the corner of 400 S and West Temple.

The Eagle Building was not originally a stand-alone building, as it was part of a vibrant city block, across the street from the famed Newhouse Hotel. The building is a rare survivor from that block and a colorful era in Salt Lake City history. “We are thrilled to see the building renovated and readapted for new use,” David Amott, preservation programs director of Preservations Utah notes. “Improving the future of the building adds to the color and context of the city.”

Menus

The core menu at Caffé Molise will remain the same, featuring fresh Italian cuisine inspired by the Molise region of northern Italy. Look for daily and seasonal specials to supplement the existing offerings. With a commitment to local ingredients and handmade regional specialties, the restaurant has welcomed casual diners, convention goers and groups celebrating special occasions for 25 years in Downtown SLC. BTG Wine Bar will be able to spread its wings and expand offerings in this new location. A Wine Spectator-recognized bar, BTG Wine Bar has an incredible selection of wines managed by sommelier Louis Koppel. Wine is offered by the two-ounce taste, by the glass or by the bottle, in addition to a full bar with crafted cocktails and beer. This is Salt Lake City’s grown-up place to relax for wine snobs and novices alike. In its new space, BTG will have a dedicated kitchen offering an expanded menu of bites and meals. The additional space will host wine pairing dinners, tasting events and wine education.

With construction nearly complete and finishing touches coming together, the project is slated to open this summer. Join the locals and visitors gathering here to embrace old world cuisine in a building brimming with old world charm. May we raise our glasses with a celebratory “Saluti” and enjoy the pleasantries of a Salt Lake City summer night.

404 S. West Temple

Caffé Molise
M-Th 11:30 am – 9 pm
F-Sa 11:30 am – 10 pm
Sun 11:30 am – 9 pm
caffemolise.com

BTG Wine Bar
Every day, 5 pm – 1 am
btgwinebar.com