One of the owners calls it the most interesting and fun venue to enjoy a high-quality dining experience. Great food in a historic venue combine to make it unforgettable.

Popoli Ristorante & Sullivan's Bar co-owner Gary Rozek (Fred Timko is his business partner) tells me they thought the historic People's Bank Building, built in 1911, was "well suited to a restaurant that preserved the historic elements of the murals, stained glass, teller bars, vault rooms, marble, clocks, etc. but also could be enhanced with some contemporary features such as the bar, booths, banquettes, glass with artistic design, etc. We had a vision for the most interesting and fun venue to enjoy a high-quality dining experience."

Bob James

How many restaurants can you enjoy a meal in a former bank vault? There aren't many, anywhere, I assure you.

There are so many unique features of the restaurant. Where do you begin?
GARY ROZEK: The vault room that seats 8 in an intimate setting, a vault room that doubles as a wine room, the People’s Bank Room that seats private parties up to 26. We also designed the bar with an extra deep countertop so eating at the bar is comfortable.

How is it that this building, owned by Wells Fargo Bank during the flood of 2008 and vacant for four years afterward, became a restaurant?
GR: We purchased the building after the flood in December 2012. Wells Fargo, the owner of the building during and after the flood until we purchased it, did a wonderful job of remediating the building and preserving the historical and other important elements.

Sixteen months after you purchased the building, you were able to open the doors. Over the last two years and three months, what would you say Popoli has become known for and what are some of the most popular dishes?
GR: Upscale Italian dining, cool bar, booths with a window seat at each one, fun outdoor patio. Our Bruschetta and Crab Fritta are our most popular appetizers. All of our pastas are big sellers, especially our Rigatoni Ala Vodka. People also tell us our Filet Mignon is the best in town. For dessert, our Creme Brulee is a favorite with its unique sweet and salty flavors.

How about you, do you have a favorite?
GR: The salmon is fresh and perfectly seasoned.

Are you a hands-on owner?
GR: No, we have an experienced General Manager, Jude Villafana, that handles all aspects of the daily operations.

You told us you and Fred Timko invested your own money to buy the restaurant. Do you ever see expanding to additional locations?
GR: No, it is a one of a kind.

Popoli is such a unique name. What's the meaning of the word?
GR: Popoli means Peoples in Italian. Sullivan’s Bar is named after the famous architect Louis Sullivan who designed the building.

If you could give just one piece of advice to someone considering starting their own small business, what would it be?
GR: Carefully put a business plan in place with the right people, location, and try to make it the most friendly and high-quality experience for every customer every hour and every day.

101 3rd Avenue SW| (319) 363-1248


This content was written in partnership with Lendio. Lendio is a free marketplace for small business loans where lenders fight for your business. Lendio has partnered with over 75 lenders to offer small business owners access to working capital to start or grow their business. Contact Lendio today to find the right business loan to fit your needs.