Shit Economy Kills Ferd Grisanti Restaurant: Another Corpse to Add to the Heap of Dying Louisville Institutions (Another “Lost Louisville” Posting)

July 25, 2008

Back in the mid to late ’90s my Friday night ritual was to take my wife’s grocery list in one hand and my son’s hand in another for an evening of grocery shopping at the now defunct Bigg’s super shopping center in Middletown, Ky. Before that, though, we would hit a cheap place to eat like Dairy Queen or Pizza Hut or Hometown Pizza in Middletown or Subway or some buffet or some franchise/chain spaghetti place that I’ve forgotten the name of, and so on.

My memory is filled with dusk-lit Friday nights of eating at restaurants with my little boy.

One night, though, none of these cheap eats sounded appealing so I decided to splurge and take my boy over to Ferd Grisanti’s Restaurant in Jeffersontown, Ky., for a pricey (but still affordable) plate of spaghetti and a side plate of breadsticks. In our shorts and t-shirts we were not really dressed for the place, but the waiter seemed glad to see us in the somewhat sparsely populated dining room. I’d been to this place a few years before with my wife, and the simple elegance hadn’t changed.

On June 8, 2008, Grisanti closed the doors of this institution, which opened in 1972 and continued on after the death of its patriarch, Ferd, in 1993. That leaves Louisville Grisanti-less for the first time since 1959. That was the year that the flagship fine-dining Casa Grisanti opened on the east quandrant of Liberty Street and set the high bar for fare and service until its closing in 1991. The cheaper, family fare oriented Mama Grisanti kept going in Dupont Circle until the mid-1990s. I never made it to Casa, but went to Mama Grisanti’s several times, where I noticed the lower-bar standard resulted in less consistency of quality, but the fare was always reasonably priced.

I’ve been saddened lately at the number of Louisville eatery institutions biting the dust. The closing of Ferd Grisanti comes close on the heels of the demise of Azalea, which morphed from La Paloma in 1994 and before that from Bauer’s—a longtime institution. This location on Brownsboro Road, which has to be part of the psyche of the city, is now being threatened with demolition, though there are efforts under way to save it. I had once taken a date to Bauer’s and later my wife to La Paloma where we had a nice salmon steak, as I recall.

Not too long before, the J.P. Kayrouz restaurant in St. Matthews—which, in my opinion, had one of the most inviting and appealing interiors of all of Louisville’s restaurants—closed in 2003 and was demolished, to my everlasting chagrin. The food there was OK, though the soups were often memorable, but it was that simple, tanned wood interior that I found so beguiling. There was an unforced simplicity in that interior ambiance that so many more consciously designed restaurants—in their desperate striving for “atmosphere—fail to achieve.

So add these to Lentini’s on Bardstown Road (also closed in 2008 for the last time after several incarnations), Hasenour’s (1934–1996), New Orleans East (closed in the 90s I think) and some others, and you have a lamentable trend for those who like traditional dining in Louisville. (I forgot to mention the old Colonial Gardens across from Iroquois Park, also an institution and also threatened with demolition.)

Post comments about your own experiences at these and other classic, defunct Louisville restaurants.

The forums over at louisvillehotbytes.com also provide a sounding board for these memories.

-EG

Another casualty of the Bush Economic Miracle: Baer Fabrics, a Louisville institution, closed after 103 years of continuous business on July 19, 2008. (Courier-Journal / Business First / Examiner / WHAS)

Jeffersontown’s Ferd Grisanti Closes After Business Declines (Courier-Journal)
www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008806240334

Article about Kayrouz memories and the newest version of the Kayrouz family dining at:
www.louisvillehotbytes.com/?p=86

Article about Bauer’s and the pending fate of its location (from the Voice-Tribune):
www.voice-tribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=461&Itemid=12

Discussion thread (from of Louisville eateries that no longer around):
www.myspeakerscorner.com/forum/spawn.php?qv=1&fn=66&tid=46336

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Forest Green Fitness Trail at Hurstbourne Green Office Park (Unseen Louisville No. 4)

June 16, 2008

It has been awhile since our last Unseen Louisville posting. That our latest entry should be relatively unknown should not be surprising, since it is new, or rather, is a newly monikered way to present a setting that was already there. In a low-lying heavily wooded area adjacent to the ever-growing office sprawl in the Hurstbourne Lane and Ormsby Station Road area of Eastern Jefferson County is a graveled fitness trail cut through some of the last (relatively) untouched deep woods in that part of town. The Forest Green Fitness trail begins at the back edge of a vast parking lot for several new post-modern glass boxes a few hundred yards south of a McDonalds. (Specifically the parcel is bounded to the north by Forest Green Blvd which parallels the slightly more northerly Hurstbourne Lane and to the west by the head of Dorsey Way and to the east by Dorsey Lane). The woods there seem to have been set aside as part of mitigation, I suspect, required by planning and zoning to ensure that some green space remains in the area. I visited the trail this past weekend, and a nice day it was too, as the following pictures will show. On the way there I checked out another bit of unseen Louisville that I only recently discovered—a wide tunnel that passes directly under Hurstbourne Lane adjacent to the McDonalds. I’ve biked through this tunnel several times in the last few weeks without ever encountering one soul there. If you go there, be careful, it gets mighty dark; the lights do not appear to be working. If you bike, be careful not to hit anyone that might pop up while you’re going through there. Use a headlight. The fitness trail to the south is officially closed after dusk, which only makes sense. You probably don’t want to be down there after hours. During the day the dense foliage makes the air noticeably cooler. While I was visiting, a group of kids were sitting at a picnic table in a clearing, resting from doing whatever it is that kids do in the woods. Make sure you have good heavy mountain bike treads if you try to bike the gravel, as it gets fairly thick and loose in spots. The sign at the ‘official’ entrance (although there are several places to enter the trail) says the path is a mile long, but it only seemed to me to be at best a half mile, at least on the parts passable by bike. I know it only took me a couple minutes to bike it from west to east. There are some wooden steps to the east that were impassable by bike, so maybe that constitutes the rest. A walking trip in the future will tell or not. The creek water that runs alongside some of the trail is contaminated by suburban runoff, as several ‘no swimming’ signs note. I ran into at least three spider webs across the path, indication that not too many people walk through here much. Anyway, here are some views of the trail and of some of the office park area surrounding. You’ll notice my old Roadmaster pressed into service in some of these shots; that’s because my regular bike is in the shop for repairs (broken axle; happens to me all the time). Also, at the end of this series is depicted an awesome perfect anvil-shaped cloud that I captured just before it dissipated at dusk. -EG


A Library Chump Lives Here: Or How the Louisville Free Public Library Is Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

October 30, 2007

library-chump-jpeg.jpgThe Louisville Free Public Library had me.

But now they’ve lost me.

A week from now Louisville voters will face a ballot referendum asking them to vote yes or no to allot $40 million a year for library operations via a newly created library tax district.

And if this proposal had been presented honestly to the public, I would have endorsed it wholeheartedly.

But it has not been presented honestly.

And so I am voting ‘no.’

Does the library need more than the paltry $16.5 million operational budget it receives a year from the Metro Louisville government? Absolutely it does.

But after years of mounting lies by my government, I have had it with lies and deceptions and obfuscations and misrepresentations.

I am not looking at this as a Democratic vs. Republican thing, or a liberal vs. a conservative issue.

I consider myself on most points a liberal. And I am not opposed to a new tax for the library. I love the library. I use it a lot. I love what it stands for and represents. I see it as a bastion of knowledge against the ignorant barbrian hordes. I want our library to be better, to be better stocked and able to service the community.

I am just opposed to this particular tax. And particularly opposed to the way in which the propaganda campaign for it has proceeded.

I feel duped. And I don’t like that. Not anymore.

Instead of straight talk, we’ve gotten the kind of sleaze addressed in this lengthy article in the Leo Weekly. Or in this one at the Courier-Journal website.

Rather than honestly tell us how much this is really going to cost and how the “old” library budget line money will be used, we get soothing pablum such as “it’s only a two-tenths of 1 percent” increase in taxes.

That’s a whopping 9 percent occupational tax increase, and it’s on top of the existing occupational tax. As a result, the old $16.5 million library budget line will become a free-money windfall for the city government.

I would support the tax if this existing $16.5 million continued to be for library use. With that $16.5 million deducted from the $40 million the library says it needs, that would leave $23.5 million left to be raised. I would be more willing to support a tax increase of $23.5 million to make up the difference, instead of allowing the city to grab a $16.5 million windfall through deception–which is what will happen if this referendum passes.

In other words, we will be paying what we already pay ($16.5 million, scooped up for something else) in addition to the new $40 million.

Do the math. We were paying $16.5 million. Now, with the city money and the library money combined. We will be paying $56.5 million.

If the library only needs the difference of $23.5 million, as I’ve demonstrated, why aren’t we being offered the option to pay that in new taxes instead?

Because the pigs are at the trough. That’s why.

Oh, I know I sound like such a Republican here. And it pains me to sound so, because I really do detest them. But on this issue–for once–our GOP friends are correct. And for once I have to grudgingly admit that I agree with them.

I want a fair, directly targeted tax, not a windfall deceptively hidden within the convoluted context of a tortuously worded referendum.

And let’s face it, like most families, ours is living paycheck to paycheck, and this amount of money is going to cut into meat and bone. We’re talking food money here. This is no small consideration.

The other thing that has rubbed me wrongly about this campaign is the way children have been exploited in selling it.

As all propagandists know, Hitler kissed children, therefore Hitler must be a nice guy.

The library ain’t Hitler, so why are they choosing Goebbels-like tactics to exploit children in their pro-referendum campaign?

You know all those thousands of “A Library Champion Lives Here” signs you see in yards all over Louisville?

I was certain that those signs meant that that particular property owner was “championing” the upcoming library referendum and supported the library and its efforts.

That confounded me because I was certain there had to be regulations barring the library from spending any of its budget for self-serving political campaigns.

As it happens, there are such restrictions.

And the way the library got around that restriction was this:

Have a summer reading campaign involving thousands of children. Once the kids read the required number of books, “reward” them with a big sign in their yard recognizing that “A Library Champion Lives Here.”

Voila! Two birds with one stone killed. The kid gets “recognition” while the library gains mass billboard face-time with the public, using a cleverly crafted message just generic enough to mean more than one thing–timed just perfectly and “coincidentally” to appear just as the big vote approaches.

Ask anyone on the street if they know squat about the summer reading program, and then ask them if they know about the library tax initiative. Then ask them what they think those signs are about?

See what I mean?

Go to the library website at lfpl.org or into the foyer of any local branch and look at how the yard sign campaign has been pictorialized to further exploit the kids by featuring their guileless, innocent selves standing next to these signs.

Remember, these kids library-champ-kids-cropped.jpgdon’t know what they’re doing. They were told to stand next to a sign to have their pictures taken.

They were told this was an “honor.”

I find it sick. And unlike the library, I’ve cropped off the kids’ faces in this picture so as not to further exploit them.

Next time, if you want to “reward” kids, give them a nice plaque and the gift of reading and knowledge: a $5 certificate to Borders or to the zoo or to IMAX or something. I guarantee they’d like it better. And we wouldn’t have it all shoved in our faces for manipulative purposes.

So masters of slick propaganda at the library, forget the Madison Avenue tactics and get back to work. When the referendum goes down to surprise defeat next week, and you wonder what went wrong, read and think deeply about my message.

Go back to the drawing board, don’t let the city take a dime, and craft an honest tax, honestly presented.

-Evan G