Archive for Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Town Talk: Downtown Italian restaurant set to open today; sad tale of how Lawrence Hereford House led to crime; city to recycle unwanted trash cans on Friday

November 6, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Here is an Election Day challenge for you: Go eat two pounds of pasta and see if you can stay awake until the final returns are counted.

Lawrence diners who are looking to stuff their stomachs after they stuff the ballot box, are scheduled to have a new option today. Jim Vaughn, a longtime Italian chef from St. Louis, told me he is planning to open his Intorno Italian restaurant, 801 Massachusetts St., for lunch and dinner today.

As we reported late last month, Intorno is going into the spot where Esquina previously was located. Work began only at the beginning of the month to convert the restaurant, so while politicians of both stripes have been talking about creating change for months, the Intorno folks seemed to pull it off in a few days.

We’ll see if Intorno creates a change in how area diners define an Italian restaurant. Vaughn describes his restaurant as a “classic Italian restaurant,” with lots of “comfort food.” But every area seems to have its own take on Italian food, and Vaughn is bringing an Italian menu that I guess is rooted in some St. Louis traditions.

Vaughn worked for 30 years for famed St. Louis chef Charlie Gitto, who owns a host of Italian restaurants in the city. For nearly five years, Vaughn was the executive chef at Gitto’s restaurant in The Hill district, which is St. Louis’ top Italian neighborhood.

So, what defines St. Louis Italian? Heck if I know. I’m not a Missourian, as the lack of a shirtless banjo player on my porch proves. (Note to the Intorno folks: Take no offense. Jokes about Missourians are required in Lawrence.) But the menu does seem to have quite a bit more seafood on it than you might normally expect at area Italian restaurants. By my count, there are at least 10 fish or seafood dishes on the menu, including Marlyland-style crab cakes, seafood risotto, calamari-style squid, and the classic dish of linguini and clams.

The menu also includes a couple of steak dishes, and wood-fired entrees such as a grilled pizza or shrimp scampi. Of course, there are also the traditional Italian favorites like chicken parmigiana and lasagna.

It looks like entrees on the dinner menu (I haven’t seen a lunch menu) range in price from about $12.95 to $24 for an Italian-style tenderloin. Pasta dishes go as high as $15.95 to $9.95 for spaghetti bolognese.

That might be a good choice if you take me up on my two-pounds of pasta challenge. On second thought, that dish sounds an awful lot like baloney (at least with the way I pronounce Italian words). You may want to avoid that. With election night pundits in full volume this evening, we won’t need any extra baloney.

• A sad but interesting tale of how tough the Lawrence restaurant business can be recently was published in the Kansas City Star. The arson trial involving the 2008 fire at the Kansas City, Mo., Hereford House steak restaurant involved quite a bit of testimony regarding the Hereford House’s foray into Lawrence.

The once iconic steak house’s stay in Lawrence was relatively short — it lasted from 2000 to 2006 — but it ended up playing a pivotal role in a sad story that led to three men being convicted on various charges related to the 2008 Hereford House fire in Kansas City.

In short, testimony at the trial that concluded last week declared the Lawrence Hereford House at Sixth and Wakarusa a money pit that led to extreme financial stress for the entire Hereford House company and its leader, Rodney J. Anderson.

Testimony from the trial revealed business partners in 2003 and 2006 infused $2 million into the company to try to make up for the poor business in Lawrence. By 2006 it was clear that wasn’t even going to be enough. The Hereford House closed that year. The company tried a different concept called H&H; Bar & Grill, but that lasted for less than a year.

Probably the most revealing fact from the trial is just how high a price Lawrence commercial real estate was commanding out at Sixth and Wakarusa in the booming late 1990s and early 2000s. The Hereford House was paying $14,000 per month for the sprawling restaurant space. That monthly lease obligation continued to accrue even after the restaurant closed.

You can read the entire article from The Star here.

• Get ready to say good-bye to those old trash cans. As crews begin to wrap up their distribution of the new city-mandated trash carts, residents soon will have their first opportunity to recycle their old trash cans.

City crews will come to your curb on Friday morning to pick up any trash cans that you no longer want to keep. The city asks that all trash cans be set out by 6 a.m. and that they be empty of trash. Residents should mark an "X" on the can to make it clear that it is to be taken by crews.

Plastic trash cans will be recycled by Rehrig Pacific, a cart manufacturer that will use the plastic to make new trash carts. Metal trash cans will be recycled for scrap metal.

City officials, however, are reminding residents they can keep their trash cans, if they so choose. Residents can use trash cans to set out yard waste materials. Residents, though, must use their city-issued, wheeled trash cart for their standard refuse.

The city will host one other trash can recycling day. It is set for Friday, Nov. 16.


JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

$14,000 per month!? Who thought that was a good idea? Lawrence is ridiculous yet people keep trying to open restaurants. If you are thinking about opening a joint in this town you should talk to your CPA first then go see your psychiatrist.

parrothead8 5 years, 2 months ago

Apparently the owners of the Hereford House thought it was a good idea.

opinion 5 years, 2 months ago

"as the lack of a shirtless banjo player on my porch proves."

You are so fun to read! Write a book someday would ya? Dave Barry's made a dime or two and he has nothing on you.


booklover2 5 years, 2 months ago

Agree. Chad you do need to write a book.

racerx 5 years, 2 months ago

Chad is the best writer the LJWorld has seen in decades.

Julie Jacob 5 years, 2 months ago

Chad- does the pickup include old City owned cans? I requested a new smaller one and want to return my old so that I don’t get charged.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 2 months ago

No, I don't think so. The general rule is if you have an old cart that you have rented from the city, you'll keep that cart. But you no longer will be charged a rental fee for the cart. The only people who are getting a cart delivered to their homes are the people who don't already have a city cart. I would check your bill to make sure you aren't getting charged a rental fee for the cart anymore. If you are, you should call the city. Thanks.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

But what if they want a different size than the one they currently have?

HutchSaltHawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Still do not have my "new" trash can despite calls to City Hall.....???

headdoctor 5 years, 2 months ago

Good luck with the new trash can thing. The contractors are ignoring what the city told them. The city isn't sure what the contractors are doing as well as the City not always dumping the new cans on trash day. The new bar code system wasn't working right. The City probably doesn't know what address has what can. It will be a good 6 months before they get this worked out.

HutchSaltHawk 5 years, 2 months ago

They drove past my house last week with carts and delivered the carts in the neighborhood - with the exception of about 6 houses on my street.

ILoveLawrence 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes, when are the new ones supposed to finally be finished being delivered? I still don't have mine.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

They're using a private contractor to deliver the new cans. Maybe the contractor needs gas money.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 2 months ago

The city previously has stated the last of the carts will be delivered by Nov. 9. I'll check in to find out if they are still on schedule to meet that deadline. Thanks, Chad.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Hereford House might have worked had they served decent food for a decent price, instead of bad food for an inflated price. I went there once on a gift certificate and it cost me $50 for dinner for one. And I've had better food by my own hand, which is not a high bar to clear.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

We went a few times, and liked it quite a lot.

And, that was surprising, as I'm a vegetarian :-)

But they had good pastas and side dishes.

lunacydetector 5 years, 2 months ago

lawrence cannot support high priced restaurants.......people would rather drive to kansas city and make it a special day and gladly pay the high prices over there.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Panchamama's is still in business last I checked.

msezdsit 5 years, 2 months ago

Just ate at Pachamama's recently. The food was better than words can describe. Ate at the hereferd house and it was awful. Thats why it failed.

SnakeFist 5 years, 2 months ago

Its a little early to be picking up old trash cans when the new ones haven't been delivered yet.

parrothead8 5 years, 2 months ago

A lot of the new ones have been delivered.

Joe Berns 5 years, 2 months ago

I had prime rib at HH once. It was pretty good.

George_Harrison 5 years, 2 months ago

Chad, I remember a few months ago you talked about a new Indian restaurant opening on mass. Did it open and I'm just completely oblivious to it, or did plans fall through?

d_prowess 5 years, 2 months ago

I have seen signs for it in the space next to Milton's so I think it is still being put together.

Ira Rott 5 years, 2 months ago

Renovations are still ongoing as of yesterday when I passed by there, it is at 918 Mass, Chutney's

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 2 months ago

The last time I walked by the space, which is at 918 Mass., work was well underway. I suspect it will open soon. I'm going off memory here, but I think it will be called Chutneys. Thanks, Chad.

ChootemLiz 5 years, 2 months ago

So excited for the Italian restaurant. I've eaten at Charlie Gitto's several times and love it. The crabcakes at Gitto's have always been my favorite so I hope they're just as good here at Intorno, can't wait to try it! And don't know what bolognese is?!? Watch some FoodNetwork, it is a classic Italian dish.

I just got my trash can this morning...Yippie (sarcastic)! I have no where to put this thing!

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Where did you put your old trash can?

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

In a much smaller space. I opted for the smallest cart and my old can fits in it. This new one could be rented as a studio apartment in NYC for $2,000 a month.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

That's funny - I grew up in NY and it's almost conceivable :-)

But, that's just silly - the smallest cart is quite small, and shouldn't be much trouble for most people to find space for, if they had a normal-ish size can before.

It is a bit heavier, and I do wonder about older folks who have larger sizes.

ChootemLiz 5 years, 2 months ago

I put a trash bag in my old trash can and carried out my trash bag, left my can in the garage b/c there's not enough room to pull the can in an out when I have both cars in there. My garage just isn't big enough, wish it was wider. And we're on a hill so I can't just pull it to the side of the house.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Well, sounds like a bit of a challenge.

I didn't know people were allowed to just put trash bags out, I thought they had to be in something, so that animals, etc. didn't get into them.

The small size, which we got, is actually narrower than our previous one, and is easier to get in and out of our garage.

pizzapete 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm real excited to try this new Italian restaurant, too. It sounds like it'll be a great fit for our downtown. I hope all you guys who were pulling for an Olive Garden support this place or at least give it a try. I imagine you'll be surprised how good real Italian food is when compared with what's offered at a corporate restaurant chain.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Since Olive Garden's parent company is planning to circumvent the Affordable Care Act by employing only part-time people in both Red Lobster and Olive Garden, they can stay out of Lawrence forever, as far as I'm concerned.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

Don't be surprised if more and more companies go that route. My understanding is that if an employee works less than 30 hours per week, they don't count as being covered. Look for more and more jobs being 29 hours per week or less.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Look for people to vote with their feet. If the owner is so greedy he'll cut already-slim compensation by reducing hours to keep from having to do what's right, just, and fair, what other corners does he cut? I don't need to spend my money there.

Tomato 5 years, 2 months ago

Them and everybody. The WSJ ran an article this week about it.

Here are some more to add to your list: Pillar Hotels and Resorts (includes Hampton, Sheraton, Fairfield Inns, Holiday Inns).

The article notes that Pillar already offers health care to employees with 32 hours or more, but the company wants to limit its exposure.

CKE Restaurants is another one (Hardee's, Carl's Jr). They offer limited benefit health plans that won't qualify as satisfactory under the health care law.

Darden Restaurants (as you mentioned - Olive Garden and Red Lobster).

Subway is letting individual franchises decide.

And these are just the companies willing to talk about it. The reality of the Affordable Care Act is that people are going to think twice about hiring full time employees when they can satisfy their needs with part timers. So you can look for this trend in any part-timer heavy industry - particularly the restaurant and hotel industries.

jackpot 5 years, 2 months ago

Just got the new trash cans in the hood today.

rachelind 5 years, 2 months ago

I worked at the HH Bar and Grill and we knew it wasn't going to last- the space was wayyy too big and development in the area hadn't contributed enough traffic yet.

Related- With Milton's moving around the corner and changing format, I'm curious to see what's going in the space. I heard that the owner of the property is leasing it to a friend instead of to real restaurateurs who wanted to buy Milton's out-right.

somedude20 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes, yes, yes...maybe L-Town will finally get a good Italian restaurant (caveat) I have not tried Bambino's since it moved (god knows it sucked the 5 times I went there) but have heard good things about them now.....


cabocrazed 5 years, 2 months ago

Then, as a community, help them negate the Krause trap and help them be successful. Be positive! We ate there last night and I can honestly say if was one of the best meals I ever had in my life. St. Louis style, classic Italian will go over well in Lawrence. Prices are reasonable as well - I think it will be more economical that other places across the street....

GMSkarka 5 years, 2 months ago

I know. "St. Louis style Italian" is about as Italian as Minsky's.

Of course, the hayseeds won't know any better, so the place will do great business.


cowboy 5 years, 2 months ago

Dothey have the veal dishes from Gitto's /

cabocrazed 5 years, 2 months ago

Chicago style vs New York style pizza.... Lol

Try the occo buco - best ever!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence retail market is over rated by chamber thinkers = economic displacement NOT economic growth.

25%-30% of shoppers take several long breaks during a retail season which reduces the number of retail shoppers and dollars in Lawrence,Kansas. When it comes to retail a real population of 68,000 is short on dollars to support the extravagant spending on infrastructure.

The field house project is extravagant spending aka pork barrel. This types of projects are tax dollar money holes no matter where they are located.

Why in the world did the Hereford House believe Lawrence,Kansas would support their high rollin steak house? What led them astray?

Meatwad 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree on the compliments to Chad. Chad's column is the first thing I read every time. His writing style, content and segues are great! Keep it up, Chad!

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Well, we went to Intorno last night.

Clearly, they've opened too soon, and without sufficient organization/training of the wait staff.

We asked a couple of questions about the menu, and it took about 20-30 minutes to get them answered. There was confusion about who was serving us, and multiple people bringing stuff to the table, poor communication between them, etc.

It was about an hour after we got there that we got our entree served.

Also, it seems a bit overpriced for what you get - not at all a "comfort food" place with lower prices, as advertised.

It's really too bad, because the food itself was quite good, but I can't see us going back. They've got a lot of competition right nearby, and don't offer anything much better or cheaper, and opening so quickly without being ready is just annoying.

shotgun 5 years, 2 months ago

Being from St Louis, I have dined at all of The Gitto Family Restaurants. I had lunch at Inforno today. I have to disagree about the menu being overpriced. With all of the clamoring in Lawrence over whether or not Olive Garden will come. Have you people never had real Italian? Where is the nearby competition? Yes I guess it is overpriced if you are comparing it to fast food. There is no other Italian in Lawrence that compares. In fact the only real Italian that I have encountered in the state of Kansas is Gorozzo''s in OPK.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

We had a couple of appetizers and one entree - the total bill came to $37, including tax and tip. The entree was a pasta dish that usually comes with chicken and shrimp, but they made it vegetarian (which was nice), but charged the same price, and didn't offer any extras, like a side dish instead.

Teller's, 715, Genovese are all pretty close and offer decent Italian food as well.

I don't get into these sorts of fights about "real" Italian, or other food - seems silly to me. As I said, the food was good, but everything else discourages me from going back.

It's advertised as old fashioned comfort food, and affordable, neither of which appear to me to be the case - the food is more modern and stylish, and the prices are too high for what you get.

On a side note, when I visited St. Louis, I wasn't thrilled with the restaurants I ate at.

rachelind 5 years, 2 months ago

That's basically Pasta Corner- You have Teller's, a Mediterranean inspired place Noodles and Co. across the street from that. The streets are practically flowing with alfredo sauce.

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