New Eatery to Open

Madison couple prepare to open
new Italian restaurant Al Forno

New liquor license has led to new eating establishments

(November 2019) – Sun-dried tomato stuffed chicken and Italian chicken salad in lettuce cups are just a few of the personal menu favorites that will be prepared by Paige Quiggle and Christian Wahl at the new Al Forno Italian Kitchen, set to open in late November in Madison, Ind. The restaurant is located at 320 Mulberry St., site of the former Tiffany’s bar.
Portable options will include a meatball with basil sauce in a cup and pizza-by-the-slice. A commitment to fresh, authentic Italian food, energized by their entrepreneurial spirit and hard work is bringing the restaurant to life. Easy counter service plus online ordering and online payment will be available. Patrons can order take-out or eat in with the option to enjoy a craft beer, a fine wine or even a Jack and Coke in the cozy restaurant with seating for 30-35 individuals.

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Christian Wahl and Paige Quiggle work on renovating the former bar into an Italian restaurant and AirBnB.

This restaurant is one of the dining options made possible by the new three-way liquor license process approved last year by the Madison City Council. Normally, the state grants a specific number of liquor licenses per county, based on population. These licenses are owned by an individual. They may be sold separately or as part of the sale of a bar or restaurant. The new licenses have been made available as special, riverfront development licenses.
A city is allowed to add liquor licenses in areas that will strengthen the economic vitality of the riverfront district and the entire community. The City Council voted in December 2018 to add five new licenses in the downtown area.
Christian Wahl, 24, purchased the three-story building in 2018 and began planning the renovation process.  One of the first steps was to apply for the one of these special Riverfront Development three-way liquor licenses.
The renovations have been a year-long project, with more to come. “As a 200-year-old building, even the bones of the building were in bad shape,” Christian said. He and his parents, Laurel and Richard Wahl, have renovated the building to include an Airbnb on the third floor and an apartment for Christian and Paige on the second floor. The Al Forno Italian Kitchen has finally come together on the first floor. The new liquor license makes it possible for diners to enjoy a drink with a nice dinner on one night and stop in for a casual beer and pizza on another night. Patrons will also be able to purchase a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer for carry-out.
Christian spent almost five years touring with his band before returning to settle down back in Madison, his hometown. He described Quiggle, 23, as a “foodie extraordinaire” who is self-taught. Their goal is to provide home-cooked Italian food – something everyone can enjoy – that is not over-priced. It will be a small operation with just a few people. Generally, the food will be served at the counter, but Christian quickly added, “If we’re not too busy, I will bring it out to your table. Without servers, the meals will be less expensive because there is no need to tip.”
He continued, “We will make everything from scratch. We have set a bar for ourselves. The flour will be sourced from Italy, but everything else will be local.”

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Christian Wahl and Paige Quiggle pose outside their new Al Forno Italian restaurant, set to open in November.

He explained that flour from Europe is different because it is not genetically modified or hybridized. Good flour leaves you feeling full, but not with a heavy feeling. “That brick in your stomach after a big meal is the result of hybrid flours. Our digestive systems have not evolved to handle these hybrid flours,” he said.
Quiggle, is a high-energy cook who plans to be in the kitchen in the “wee hours of the morning” doing the prep work. The spinach and mushroom ravioli are made by rolling a layer of fresh dough. Next, a ball-scoop is used to place the filling on the dough. A second layer of dough goes over the filling. The dough is pressed together between the filling and cut with a special ravioli cutter. She described the Mozzarella Pillows as “basically a fancy hot pocket” that she prepares using piecrust to create the tart shell. Steaks will be seared on cast iron and finished in the pizza oven.
“Christian was adamant that my cooking would be up-front and visible to patrons in the restaurant,” Quiggle said.
On her own since the loss of her parents when she was 17, Quiggle has worked hard in many restaurants over the years, mostly as a server. “I have been obsessed with food since I was a kid,” she said. “My grandma was always cooking. Everyone loves to eat, and I just love to cook.”
She has spent hours watching the Food Network, starting at age 8. Her favorite chefs are Giada De Laurentiis and Mario Batali.
In addition to Al Forno Italian Kitchen, a license was previously granted to Bob Maile for Rembrandt’s Gallery & Wine Bar, 323-325 E. Main St., to expand the wine bar to include alcohol and beer. As a result, Rembrandt’s has expanded hours of service plus new menu options. Licenses have also been approved by the city for John Heitz, 122 E. Main St. for a new fine dining establishment yet to be named or opened at the former location of Bistro One. Another license was approved for Rodney and Joey Pettit, 321 Jefferson St., for the Courtyard Grill, which opened last year.
The application process for these new licenses is controlled by the city’s Riverfront Alcohol Permit Review Committee, chaired by Council member Dan Hughes. The initial application requires a $250 fee paid to the City of Madison. If approved, the liquor license costs $1,000 per year, paid to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.
“The City Council defined specific guidelines for these new licenses,” Hughes explained. “We are responsible to ensure that the guidelines are met before the applicant is allowed to submit an application to the state of Indiana. If we approve, the committee recommends approval to the Council. The mayor then signs a letter that is sent to the state with the formal application for the three-way liquor license. The entire due-diligence process takes about two months.”

The Madison City Council established the boundaries of the Riverfront Development District and the rules and regulations for the new three-way liquor licenses. Those regulations include the expectation that any new restaurant within the district will maintain at least $125,000 in gross food sales. For the first two years of operation, the requirement is reduced to $100,000 in gross food sales. This type of license must be renewed at the beginning of each calendar year.

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