LAKEVIEW — The storefront has been a funeral home, a grocery store, a brothel and an accordion music school — and it's been the scene of a murder.
Now the well-known spot at 2834 N. Southport Ave. will be home to a new restaurant, a European brasserie-inspired place called The Bentley, that hopes to become a quaint neighborhood spot after it opens this summer, said spokeswoman Heidi Hageman.
For some 30 years, the storefront was home to Lucca's Restaurant, an Italian place whose menus told the tale of the building's history. In the 1800s, the menu said, the Brieske family ran a funeral parlor in the building. In 1917, the funeral parlor business moved for an expansion, so the family replaced the storefront with a grocery store called "Brieske's Pale of Ale," where you could buy a bucket of beer.
Eventually, the building became a school of music with a specialty in the accordion, and then "a well-known house of ill repute" called "Le Pink Pussycat," the menu said. It urged customers to "add your own colorful history to Lucca's."
In 2008, Lucca's added its own unfortunate history to the space when the restaurant's manager was found dead and tied up with electrical cords in the basement after being "viciously beaten," according to reports. Indiana resident David Sidener was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the crime.
Lucca's closed shortly after the incident, and American restaurant Palette Bistro went in before closing last year.
But in moving forward, The Bentley seeks to be a warm, friendly place for the neighborhood, with 50 seats outside on the sidewalk and 50 seats inside behind tall French doors, its new owners said. Owner Brian Dohmen, whose 65-pound adopted dog is named Bentley, will be keeping some of the original character by refurbishing the original bar.
And the food seeks to be comforting, too. Chef Ian Flowers, of Wicker Park's LOKal, will be offering up twists on American bistro food, including a variety of soups, snacks and entrees. The restaurant will also serve higher-end dinner options, like a roasted duck breast with aubergine caponata, cheddar polenta and saba reduction.
The Bentley will only be open for dinner service initially, but its owners plan to serve brunch eventually.
"We just wanted to do a really quaint neighborhood place," Hageman said.