Fear not, Packers fans. When the announcement was made Tuesday that a taste of Chicago was coming to Green Bay, it had nothing to do with the dreaded Bears. There's no Ditka on this menu.
Instead, the Packers have selected a new foodservice provider for Lambeau Field, downsizing yet maintaining its relationship with local PMI to make way for Levy Restaurants, originally a one-delicatessen operation out Chicago that has blossomed into arguably the premier foodservice provider in professional sports venues.
Consider its clients. To a list that already includes Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, Churchill Downs, STAPLES Center, Conseco Fieldhouse and Jacobs Field among others, Levy Restaurants now adds Lambeau Field.
"In a career in foodservice, to wind up in the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field . . . is the thrill of a lifetime, certainly the thrill of a career," said Larry Levy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Levy Restaurants. "Lambeau Field leaps to the top of an important list of places we do business."
And they don't just do sports. Levy Restaurants is behind the multi-award winning Spiagga restaurant in Chicago. They operate restaurants out of Walt Disney World, including Portobello Yacht Club and Fulton's Crab House. The past three years, they've been the official caterer of the Grammy Awards.
All this from something that started less than 25 years ago as a mom 'n pop operation. Better make that, mom 'n sons. Brothers Larry and Mark Levy invested in D.B. Kaplan's Delicatessen in 1978, but it wasn't until their mother Eadie Levy provided her recipes that things took off.
Today they may be bigger, but it's still a family organization. Thus, the Green Bay community can relate to the Levys just as easily as the Levys can relate to Green Bay.
"Our company is family company," Larry Levy assured at the press conference, his mother seated to his left. "What we found and what we related to completely when we competed to win this (job) was that the family atmosphere of this company and the family atmosphere of this community were one and the same."
Remaining a part of the Packers family will also be local provider PMI, continuing a partnership that has stood for 17 years. Chiefly, PMI will maintain many of its game day operations - including the management of ushers, ticket-takers, etc. - while consulting with Levy Restaurants to ensure that the traditional tastes of Green Bay will not go overlooked.
Sushi may fly at Dodger Stadium in L.A., where fans arrive in the fourth inning and leave in the seventh, perhaps glancing at the game a time or two, but it won't sell in Green Bay, where beer and bratwurst are still king and queen.
"We'll make a few new items," Larry Levy said, "but we actually think the food was very good in the concession stands. I think you'll see a few items that will be a little bit of a difference, but that will be an alternative. Nothing fancy, just better . . . There might be an alternative sausage (in addition to) to a hot dog and a bratwurst. We'll still have all the local favorites."
All of this is step one of completing a promise made by the Packers to their fans back when the Lambeau Field redevelopment was merely a referendum, a promise to make Lambeau Field more fan friendly.
"We've always talked about this stadium, that we want to preserve the history and tradition of Lambeau, but at the same time give the people the modern conveniences and amenities new stadiums have," said Bob Harlan, Packers President and Chief Executive Officer. "That's one of the first things that prompted us to go to a new stadium, to give our fans what the fans in other cities had. This food service will upgrade us in that area, and because of that we feel that's one of the strongest amenities we're going to have."
Further steps in this process will come later, as Levy Restaurants plays a key role in the Packers' hopes to make Lambeau Field a venue accessible to visitors 365 days a year. Paramount to that objective will be the Titletown atrium, which will not be fully operational until the 2003.
When it is, the Packers can finally begin to accept some of the multiple requests made of them regarding Lambeau Field over the years, offering an area in the stadium to entertain everything from birthday parties, to baptisms to weddings.
"I always marveled at the number of people who come here and all they want to do is walk in or take a look at the field and then leave," Harlan said. "And then they would say to me, can we ever schedule this here, or that here. We had to turn that down. We don't have to do that anymore.
"This is a location that I am firmly convinced will be the biggest attraction in the state of Wisconsin because of its historic significance. I think we're going to be one of the major attractions in the entire Midwest."
Soon, when Lambeau Field whets the appetites of Packers fans, Levy Restaurants will be there to help satisfy their cravings. And while a beer and 'brat' will taste as good as always, save a little room for dessert.
The malted milk bombe is to die for.