LAKEWOOD RANCH -- John Breiner, former owner of the well-known Ed's Tavern, has decided to step out of the family business and open a restaurant of his own creation.
Wolves Head Pizza and Wings has opened in the 2,600-square-foot space formerly occupied by Ferraro's Italian Restaurant at 1837 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. Breiner completely revamped the space, knocking down walls, replacing old furniture, getting rid of schmaltzy murals and adding a fresh coat of burgundy paint. There's a plethora of TVs, old school beer and gas station signage hanging on the walls.
Wolves Head is not a pizzeria, but more of a place to relax, watch sports, drink craft beer and eat good food.
"I didn't want to be a pizzeria because that's not my business, but I knew we could make a really good quality pizza and we've always made great wings, so we've married that together," Breiner said. "Most of your pizzerias are very small and they're not really sit-down restaurants. So we're a full-service restaurant that still offers beer, wine and sports."
Ed's Tavern is now owned by Bob Bender, a Friendly's franchisee, and Albert Myara, who owns both Bogey's Sports Pub locations in Bradenton and Venice.
"It's a very successful business. We've very happy with it so there's really no need to change it," said Bender, 57. "Many years of learn
ing told both of us 'Hey, it's going well so no need to come in here and change it all around.'"
While the menu hasn't changed, Ed's has gotten a noticeable face lift since Bender and Myara bought it in early February. The bar, only 5 years old, has a new sign, five new TVs, fresh paint on the inside and decorative brick wall.
Ed's Tavern will have a grand re-opening April 30.
Wolves Head features 19 craft beers on draft and a meaty menu offering much more than pizza and wings. Soups, salads, stromboli, pasta and a long list of hoagies are also tacked on. And Breiner has brought in a few familiar touches.
"Our wings are the same way we did them at Ed's. Chicken tenders, we still do them exactly the same way," Breiner said.
His uncle's antique phone booth that has lived in every Ed's Tavern has also been incorporated.
"A piece of Uncle Ed still lives on with us," Breiner said.
Breiner's uncle opened the first Ed's Tavern in New Jersey in 1935. Growing up, Breiner wore all the hats at Ed's. He expanded the bar to Charlotte, N.C., and then to Main Street, Lakewood Ranch.
"The late nights, the full bar and all that stuff kind of took its toll," said Breiner, 47. "My kids are 11 so they're at the age, there's going to be a time when they don't want to hang with Dad anymore."
The new restaurant's moniker is a tribute to Tampa-based Wolf's Head Motor Oil. Breiner loves retro cars and gas stations and wanted to use the name for his bar, so he swapped "wolf's" for "wolves."
Wolves Head Pizza and Wings is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant will celebrate its grand opening 8 p.m. Saturday with live music, free craft beer tastings, giveaways and more.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow @sabrinarocco on Twitter.