CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Russ Wasendorf Sr. originally created My Verona restaurant for more than 70 of his PFG Best employees who followed the company from Chicago to Cedar Falls several years ago.

The concept of a gourmet Italian dining experience has gone over so well, Wasendorf said, he has decided to open another My Verona in the new hotel in the Tech 2 building at Cedar Valley TechWorks.

In fact, Wasendorf isn't stopping there. He also is going to renovate an old building at 110 E. Third St. in downtown Cedar Falls --- about a block from the original My Verona --- to prepare high-volume base ingredients, such as sauces, soups and pastas, for use in both restaurants and for carry-out purchases.

"The popularity of My Verona actually has surprised us," Wasendorf said. "There has been such a large number of parties and special events there, it's really putting a lot of stress on the kitchen."

The new restaurant, which will have a layout, amenities and menu similar to the 8,000-square-foot Cedar Falls eatery, is scheduled to open late summer of 2013. It will employ about 70 workers --- the same number as the Cedar Falls restaurant.

The cost of the project will be around $1 million, he said.

It's the latest detailed plan in a $50 million development project called The Green @ TechWorks that developers say will transform the 40-acre parcel of land on the western edge of downtown Waterloo into a center for business, manufacturing and tourism.

As the dining centerpiece of the "green hotel" planned for Tech 2, the new My Verona will have a somewhat different function than its Cedar Falls twin, Wasendorf said.

"Since it's in a hotel, breakfast will be a necessary item, and we'll also have room service available," he said.

"We've been working with Russ and PFG on a variety of pieces of this project all along, and we're thrilled that he's choosing to invest in this project," said Cary Darrah, TechWorks general manager. "It's exactly the kind of restaurant experience we'd hoped would be created for the green hotel. People have found their way to My Verona throughout the Cedar Valley, and it's an excellent venue for the business traveler."

Wasendorf's fiancee, Nancy Paladino, will manage Verona's Kitchen, which will employ about 10 full-time workers, and will open for business in August.

"It's a different concept --- a multi-purpose facility that will do a number of things. It will provide sauces and soups and basic things that can be provided to both, so those items can be absolutely consistent between the two restaurants."

It also will provide take-out orders, including "picnic baskets" with optional bottles of wine, he said.

"Individuals can pick up a tray of lasagna, ravioli and pastas and soups, and it's going to be a bakery where there will be fresh, warm bread available," Wasendorf said.

An organic farm that Wasendorf's company has operated the last three years has provided tomatoes, peppers and other items for use in the restaurant. The growing operation, which is about 5 acres now, can be expanded to about 15, he said.

Business Editor at The Courier

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