Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2011

Town Talk: Italian restaurant slated for South Mass.; Lawrence Census numbers on black population buck state trend; a piece of City Commission history

March 10, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Meatballs on South Mass appear to be a part of the future. A source tells me that a new Italian restaurant called Fat Tony’s is expected to open in the former Bambino’s location at 1801 Mass. The location is undergoing an extensive remodeling and, depending on how that goes, expects to open in mid-April. According to the source, which has some ties to the deal, the restaurant will strive to be casual Italian. Expect a slightly larger bar area, and perhaps some throwback Italian crooner music from live performers on the patio. The business also expects to serve breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I’ll let you know if I get more details.

• Like I’ve said before, I’m a census geek. I spent a little time going through some of the race numbers that recently were released, and you can find a brief article about that here.

While looking at the numbers, one stood out to me: the population figures for black residents of Lawrence. According to the census, only 17 more black people lived in Lawrence in 2010 than in 2000. As a result, the black population is becoming a smaller part of Lawrence. In 2000, the black population represented 5.1 percent of the entire community. In 2010, it had fallen to 4.7 percent. That’s different from what is going on in Kansas as a whole. The black population hasn’t been soaring like the Hispanic population, but it is becoming a bigger part of the state’s total. In 2000, black residents were 5.7 percent of the population. In 2010, they were 5.9 percent of the population.

I wondered what black leaders in town thought of the numbers, and — to be honest — it was a little difficult finding anyone who wanted to talk. I asked two people who had ties to the local chapter of the NAACP to chime in, and they didn’t want to. I wasn’t able to get in touch with the group’s presidents.

But I did talk to longtime black pastor Rev. Leo Barbee. The bottom line is that’s he’s not sure what’s behind the stagnant numbers. If he had to guess, he said it likely is more economic related, rather than Lawrence having an inhospitable social environment for black residents.

Barbee isn’t real concerned about the numbers right now, but he said if the trend continues for another decade, there is a risk that the population could become marginalized. Barbee said he does know one thing that could make the black community in Lawrence stronger: more participation in community affairs.

Barbee said the black community tends to be very active in its church community, but that there is a certain amount of “passivity” when it comes to broader community issues.

“I’ve been in town 35 years, and I think that is a sad commentary,” Barbee said. “I think we all ought to be more active.”

• On that point, this is the time of year that another piece of Lawrence history sometimes is mentioned: Lawrence has never had a black mayor. It is not even clear whether Lawrence has ever had a black city commissioner. I know in the approximately 20 years I’ve covered the City Commission, there has not been a black commissioner. I’ve asked some other people with longer memories, and they can’t produce a name. I don’t know what to make of any of this, but I do find it interesting, especially given Lawrence’s early history.


GUMnNUTS 7 years, 1 month ago

What a name, "Fat Tony's" making Italians proud everywhere. I hope they can at least make their own gravy and not buy it from sysco like Paisano's.

Terry Sexton 7 years, 1 month ago

You don't like the fatty? How 'bout 'Lean Luigi's' or 'Beanpole Benito's?'

BigPrune 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe Maggie Sanger's goal is coming to fruition right here in liberal enclave Lawrence, KS. I hope not!

Marcy McGuffie 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sure there are Germans that do make German Chocolate Cake, but the cake did not originate in Germany. It's named after Baker's Chocolate Company's "German Sweet Chocolate" bars. The dude who invented these bars was named Sam German.

And there is a lot more to German food than sauerkraut and hot dogs...I'm just sayin'.

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 1 month ago

I would love a German or other Central European restaurant.

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 1 month ago

Hopefully Fat Tony's will be good. I don't care for Paisano's or Bambino's.

CardHawkFan 7 years, 1 month ago

Bambino's is okay. Not enough sampling to judge from. Paisano's probably has some of the worst service I have ever experienced anywhere. It's almost as if they watch you until you look like you are going to get up and leave before they come back to the table. To be honest, my wife and I have struggled with service nearly everywhere in Lawrence and we dress and tip restaurant appropriate.

Clark Coan 7 years, 1 month ago

Meatballs? Give me a break. It will be closed within three years unless somehow it becomes popular with college students.

FatTonys 7 years, 1 month ago

Why so Skeptical? Do you have something against Meatballs?
Fat Tony's looks to attract Students as well as Families here in Lawrence. We want to offer a fun dinning experience... where all of Lawrence can come and Celebrate! Celebrating a birthday? Anniversary? New Job? what ever the occasion... come in and celebrate with Fat Tony!

somebodynew 7 years, 1 month ago

"unless somehow it becomes popular with college students" Did you catch the little part of the article about the expanded bar area and performers - sounds like a lot of "restaurants" in Lawrence - serve food during the day and early evening, then let the BAR take over and turn it into another bar scene.

Scott Morgan 7 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is lacking in quality Italian restaurants. Good cheap lots of it Italian food. Cascone's style.

It it's good, it will be a hit.

FatTonys 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry to hear you have had bad experiences with Customer Service! I hope that you will give Fat Tony's the opportunity to show you what Great Customer Service looks like! We are very excited to offer a new dining experience to Lawrence.

KansasPerson 7 years, 1 month ago

FatTonys: I know a crooner who would be awesome on your patio. Whom should he contact?

FatTonys 7 years, 1 month ago

Great! Would love the information. Email me at

irvan moore 7 years, 1 month ago

italian, mexican, chinese, be nice to have some plain old food. i can't believe it but i miss furrs.

FatTonys 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for your support! We are excited to revitalize the patio... especially come 70's and sunshine!

Terry Sexton 7 years, 1 month ago

Hey, Fats, is your signature dish gonna be riga'tony'?

FatTonys 7 years, 1 month ago

LOVE IT! Well it may just have to be now that you brought it to light!

Sarah St. John 7 years, 1 month ago

Wilbur, are you talking about that fried-chicken place on 10th Street, next to India Palace? (Only new chicken place I know about) We have been wondering about that, but we haven't gotten around to checking it out yet.

misseve 7 years, 1 month ago

My mom went there she says it was "alright" but she wasn't singing its praises... If my momma wasn't gushing about it, I am in no hurry to go there!

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