Ryan Manka, part of the team behind Bari Italian, set to open next week, serves up two signature drinks, including "The Bari." PHOTO DAVE DEWITTE
A new modern Italian restaurant is opening next week at The Metropolitan building in Cedar Rapids' Kingston Village.

Bari Italian, across from the McGrath Amphitheater at 450 First St. SW, Suite 103, is an upscale casual restaurant focusing on  "comfortable Italian cuisine that is affordable and fun," said owner B.J. Hobart of Cedar Rapids.

The restaurant's bar will feature handcrafted cocktails with an Italian flair and an "approachable" wine list. Executive Chef Marcello Florio will center the menu around local seasonal ingredients. Ms. Hobart said Mr. Florio will offer up signature dishes first created in his hometown of Pescara, Italy. Mr. Florio received his culinary education at Villa Santa Maria in the Abruzzo area and his career has spanned both sides of the Atlantic, including stints as executive chef at Albero Bello in Bologna, Italy, sous chef at il Mulino in New York City, and cooking and consulting positions in Chicago, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"My mother used to cook from 6 in the morning until after dinner," Mr. Florio said. "My passion for cooking came from smelling her food." 

He said the calm atmosphere of Bari suits his desire for people to take their time and enjoy the food, and the staff will be listening to customers for ideas and feedback.

Despite his background and authentic Italian recipes, "we are not just saying, 'this is my way and that's it.'"

Bari (pronounced "BAR-ee) is named for an Italian port city on the Adriatic Sea famous for its maze-like streets and food culture. The concept execution is a group effort by Ms. Hobart, Mr. Florio, General Manager Sarah Thiltgen, and restaurant consultant Ryan Manka. 

Ms. Thiltgen, a third-generation restauranteur and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, has owned and operated several restaurants, including Italian-themed Crust in Dubuque. Mr. Manka helped launch several notable Cedar Rapids-area restaurants, including Cobble Hill and Black Sheep Social Club.

Bari features a seasonal patio complete with fire pit, a unique fireplace in the lounge and a private room that will be available for catered business gatherings. Hours of operation will be Monday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m., with the last dinner seating at 9:30 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, from 3-11 p.m., with the last dinner seating at 10:30 p.m. Sundays will offer brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Ms. Hobart is managing partner of Hobart Historic Restoration, which developed The Metropolitan. She said the concept for Bari arose when she and her business partner/husband Jim Hobart experienced difficulty recruiting the kind of restaurant they wanted for the building, and decided to use the insights they had gleaned from their varied dining experiences to create the kind of restaurant the market needed.
pitchGrand Living chef wins statewide 'American Dream' award

Austina Smith
Austina Smith, executive chef at Grand Living at Bridgewater in Coralville, is this year's recipient of the Iowa Restaurant Association's American Dream Award and the only Corridor resident to make the association's slate of 2019 award-winners.

Each year, the American Dream a ward honors a restaurant operator or employee who had to "overcome significant obstacles in order achieve the American dream in the restaurant industry."

Ms. Smith, a native of Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa, came to the U.S. with her family through a United Nations refugee program in the late 1990s, settling in Cedar Rapids. According to a profile in a recent Grand Living newsletter, Ms. Smith grew up in a family of "foodies," but never considered a career in the culinary arts until taking a cake decorating class at Kirkwood Community College.

From there, she says, she was "hooked," later working in hotels, restaurants, business and educational settings, including at Cornell College in Mount Vernon as executive sous chef for  Bon App├ętit Management Company.

Ms. Smith said she was attracted to Grand Living's unique approach to senior dining that allows her to personalize and cater to individual residents.

"Food creates memories that transcend barriers and as culinarians, we always want those memories to be positive," she said. "We strive to present the best each day."

Ms. Smith was also named to the association's inaugural 40 "Women to Watch" in hospitality list over the summer.

Other 2019 association award winners include Robert Johnson of Des Moines' B-Bops, who won Restaurateur of the Year; Kevin Scharpf of Dubuque's Brazen Open Kitchen + Bar, who won Chef of the Year; and Chris Diebel of Bubba & Teddy Maroon's in Des Moines, who won Emerging Hospitality Leader.

The 2019 award winners will be honored with a gala at the Iowa Hospitality Convention and Expo Nov. 18. A tasting gala prior to the awards ceremony will allow the public to sample dishes from the statewide culinary competition and vote for their favorites in a People's Choice Award. 
Para2In the CBJ: It's showtime for Foundations in Learning
Foundations in Learning CEO Mark Mitrovich and co-founder and co-owner Carolyn Brown shown in the startup's office.
It took 10 years and thousands of hours of R&D for University of Iowa spinout Foundations in Learning to bring its assessment and intervention system for struggling readers in grades 2-12 to market.

With the launch of its Foundations Learning System and a new CEO, the company is offering a powerful tool that educators can use to close the reading deficiency gap that is holding back students.
"The plans we have are to move far and fast," CEO Mark Mitrovich says.

The cloud-based system assesses gaps in a student's reading comprehension and fluency due to poor word recognition skills. It diagnoses the deficiencies and provides an online multimedia reading intervention to overcome their barriers to word recognition.
The system's effectiveness has been proven in pilot programs in Iowa and other states, and it has unique features like the Foundations Diagnostic, which is the only scaled measure of automatic word recognition currently available, and an online dashboard that lets teachers see where individual students are making progress.

Mr. Mitrovich came to his new leadership role in September. He has 35 years of experience as an educator and district leader, including superintendent positions in Gig Harbor, Washington, and Naperville, Illinois. He also has been chief academic officer for the School Services Division of Pearson North America.

The experience that provided Mr. Mitrovich with the most insight into the reading problem was his role as co-founder of a nonprofit that worked with urban school districts to improve STEM education. A lack of reading proficiency was a key obstacle to students in gaining STEM skills that are increasingly important to career success.

The student reading proficiency crisis is deeper than most Americans realize. 

Read the full members-only story in this week's print or  digital editions of the CBJ. 
Para3 SwineTech picks up another award, this one from Iowa's SBDC

Agtech startup SwineTech has been named the winner of America's SBDC Iowa statewide Business of the Month Award for October.
The Cedar Rapids-based company launched in 2014 to offer a solution aimed at reducing the number of piglet-crushing incidents by sows within pork farrowing operations. Its resulting product uses combined artificial intelligence with technology adapted from the chiropractic field to humanely induce sows to stand up in the event of accidental piglet crushings. The company is now working to offer advanced analytics that can help pork producers know even more about their animals' health and behavior.
Through the assistance of the SBDC, SwineTech has been able to secure angel and venture capital funding and develop a solid business plan. The company has won several business plan competitions and various other awards from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the American Farm Bureau and the Investors Hall of Fame. Co-founders Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinoza have also been recognized by Forbes as part of its 30 Under 30 most promising companies in manufacturing and industry.
The company's technology is currently protecting more than 1 million piglets, and it has partnered with pork producers representing nearly 20% of the nation's pork supply, according to the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center's  most recent annual report. SwineTech has received orders from 16 other countries, including Mexico and Brazil, and grown to 12 full-time members.
America's SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University's Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, America's SBDC Iowa has 15 regional assistance centers located strategically across the state. For more information, visit
Para5Consulting: Maybe you should kind of, sort of relax on language
In this week's consulting spotlight, Jen Neumann of de Novo Marketing explains why it shouldn't be a business taboo to use natural language patterns.

Somewhere Sheryl Sandberg just shuddered. According to multiple articles and business books, I undermined my own authority with that headline. These articles love to tell us (especially women) how we should speak/behave/carry ourselves to appear more assertive and be taken more seriously by others.

"I just..."
"I kind of..."
"I sort of..."
"I think..."
"I don't mean to be (insert adjective) but..."

I agree that all of these phrases make our language weaker and often dilute our messaging. In most written communications, they should be eliminated, especially in business writing.

However, in everyday spoken language, we are undermining our own confidence by trying to regulate a normal part of today's speech patterns. We are wired to give verbal cues that say that we are open, that we are not necessarily the aggressor. And contrary to what self-help gurus - who have purportedly exorcised these words and only speak with perfectly calculated phrases - think, you are not doing yourself in every time you let one slip.

Many of these articles aim to help women strengthen their communications, but in reality, many men soft-pedal their own language. Of note, millennials are heavy users of softer language and it has become part of their language norms. In many cases, it is a form of self-awareness.

While using a phrase like "I just," or "I kind of sort of" do soften language and can give the appearance of a lack of assertiveness, it is not always the worst thing. True, for some of us, it can feel like nails raking a chalkboard. But often, it is being used as a sign of deference and even more often, a sign that someone is open and listening. The phrases can signal that someone is balancing assertiveness with a willingness to be open to other's thoughts.

Rather than trying to reform what has become a natural language pattern, it is better to understand where and when you need to signal confidence and assertiveness and plan to speak directly and decisively. Then let yourself (or your colleagues, if you've been haranguing them) off the hook the rest of the time.

Read the full column at
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Short-Term Event Planner      

Nov. 1
RSM Ribbon Cutting, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, 3-5 p.m., RSM US LLP, 404 E. College St., Suite 300, Iowa City. Free. For information, visit

Nov. 6
1 Million Cups, by 1MC Cedar Rapids, 8:15-9:15 a.m., Geonetric, 415 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. Join for community connections, free coffee and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit

1 Million Cups, by 1MC Iowa City, 9-10 a.m., MERGE, 136 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City. Join for community connections, free coffee and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit

Make Your Mark, by ImpactCR, 5-7 p.m., The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids. Celebrate achievements by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance's young professionals group, and preview new things to come in 2020. Free. For information, visit

Nov. 7
A Toast to Our Communities Awards Breakfast, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, 7:30-8:30 a.m., Celebration Farm, 4696 Robin Woods Lane NE, Iowa City. This annual awards ceremony will acknowledge outstanding businesses, organizations and individuals. Tickets: $25-$35. To register, visit

Wake Up Marion, by Marion Chamber of Commerce, 8-9 a.m., Scout of Marion, 725 11th St. Get to know Scout owner Nikki Kettelkamp while enjoying conversation with other Marion Chamber members. Free. For information, visit

Direct Mail, The Comeback, by SCORE of East Central Iowa, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., HyVee, 5050 Edgewood Road, Cedar Rapids. Learn how direct mail works, how to obtain a targeted direct mail list, when to use direct mail and more. Free. To register, visit
Headlines from CBS2/FOX 28 
These news items are provided by CBS2/FOX 28
Officers from the Cedar Rapids Police Department responded to 48 crashes in three hours Thursday morning.  Police say the three-hour time frame was from 7-10 a.m. and that most of the crashes happened on First Avenue, Interstate 380 and Edgewood Road.  Officials say there were no injuries.  One crash on Interstate 380 near Toddville  shut down the southbound lanes  for two hours.  The City of Cedar Rapids said they had crews out as early as Wednesday pre-treating the roads with brine. Crews started plowing at 11 p.m. Wednesday and continued into the afternoon Thursday.  Click  here  to see a map of priority snow routes.

With Uptown Marion growing, the Marion Community Garden will soon have to move to another home just across the street from its current location.  "We always knew this was a temporary location," Philip Pfister, the Linn County Master Gardener said. "We just didn't know when. Now we have the new location and it's pretty exciting because it gives us an opportunity to raise produce in a better environment and also set up new structures." The new location sits right by city hall on the southeast corner of the building. Together with the city, county and several community organizations volunteers who care for the garden are excited for new opportunities including growing more produce for those in need. Much of the produce from the community gardens goes to the Marion food back and directly benefits children and families in the community. "We are going to have different styles of beds, as well as growing vertically, it's going to be a nice additions," Mr. Pfister said. I feel good about this and I feel good we are able to help out the community. This gives the food pantries an opportunity to have fresh produce and it gives people a chance to try new things."
T hese news items are provided by CBS2/FOX 28 
CBS2  Weather First Forecast

Clouds will clear from west to east and we'll get into sunshine this afternoon. It will be cold with temperatures in the low 30s. Trick-or-treaters will need to be bundled up as temperatures will drop into the upper 20s by mid-evening. Skies will remain clear overnight and temperatures will drop into the teens by Friday morning.  A weak system will cross the state later on Friday afternoon/evening. Moisture will be limited, but a light rain/snow shower is possible. High pressure will drift overhead Saturday and Sunday leading to quiet weather. Highs on Saturday will be near 40 degrees with mid-40s expected Sunday.