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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Lawyer Alert: The White Castle on Westport Road in Louisville, Ky., is Begging to Be Sued (Here’s Why)

July 6, 2007

100_0853-20whitecast.jpgLife and commerce go on without cause for reflection and must not be stopped, and in all that unregulated Wild West hustle bustle of the USA, fucking retarded things like what I’m about to show you happen.

It’s the kind of “what me, worry?” attitude that led to 9/11 (no coordination, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, etc.), and so stupid things slip through the cracks that anyone in any kind of authority should have spotted right off the bat.

What we’re talking about here is the brand spanking new White Castle restaurant on Westport Road, just a few steps from its old location at Hurstbourne Lane in front of the Kroger and across from Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Eastern Jefferson County (Louisville, Ky.)

Why a replacement restaurant of apparently no greater size needed to be built just a few yards from the old one is anyone’s guess. At least with the old locale the traffic direction was fairly simple and controlled.

100_0860-13-white-castle.jpgSo what strikes you about this photo that also struck me instantly when I saw this scene? Something that should have struck the supervisor who supposedly oversaw the finishing and painting of this roadway, or that should have struck the manager of the White Castle who deemed everything hunky dory and safe and ready for business?

Or was everybody just itching so much to open for business that nothing else mattered?

So, in case you’re like those so-called supervisors, let me point out that the traffic arrows indicate that it is perfectly OK for two cars driving past a corner blind spot where neither can see each other to be directed—without any caution or stop signs—to drive into one another.

Not only that, but whoever painted the arrow near the front door the first time sort of had the right idea: keep the traffic flowing out and away from the service window. But somehow, somebody decided there needed to be two-way traffic in front of the store, so the arrow was repainted, but the old arrow is still visible so the whole thing seems to point in two directions at once!

white-castle-2.jpgAdding to this interesting mix is that fact that a whole row of parking spaces abutt this frontal roadway, so that large pickups and SUVs backing out of the spaces can run into people and cars pulling out from the drive-through pickup lane. I saw just such a thing happen here last night (large pickup truck in middle of parking lot row backs toward the outgoing drive-thru lane and nearly backs into car coming out of it)—and I was only here taking pictures for five minutes.

As the fender benders and broken-legged pedestrians pile up here, as they no doubt will, a light bulb might finally turn on in the head of the dimwits in charge.

d-isaccs.jpgSo until the Messrs. at White Castle decide to stop being dumb shits, be ready to call everybody’s favorite TV lawyer, the Louisville Heavy Hitter. I got the pictures, big guy…which can be had for a reasonable fee.

-Evan G