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.


shotgun 1 year, 5 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 1 year, 5 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.


Meatwad 1 year, 5 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!


Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 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?


cabocrazed 1 year, 5 months ago

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

Try the occo buco - best ever!


cowboy 1 year, 5 months ago

Dothey have the veal dishes from Gitto's /


Gotland 1 year, 5 months ago

"St louis" style Italian LOL


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 5 months ago

The new Italian place will fail because the owner paid way to much for the business. No remodel either, not a good sign of their cash flow situation. I wish the family the best but they fail into the Krause trap and will be left with nothing in the end. The Krauses are in league with Lucifer.


alcoholbliss 1 year, 5 months ago

Every cart should have come with THIS!

Trash Champion 18 in Stake 25 ft Cable Medium Tie-Out Cable Spiral Stake Set

Why haul that cart through your unpaved back/ side yard or take up valuable garage or driveway space?

Vinyl covered cable

Stronger lighter cable, keeps that cart from blowing out of your front yard, clear to City Hall on non trash pick up, and windy days.

For trash up to 80 pounds (tested) this carts trash won't pull like a 60 pound dog.

Make sure their cart is in sight, in your yard, but out of city easement, while its stored....


somedude20 1 year, 5 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.....



rachelind 1 year, 5 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.


jackpot 1 year, 5 months ago

Just got the new trash cans in the hood today.


pizzapete 1 year, 5 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.


ChootemLiz 1 year, 5 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!


George_Harrison 1 year, 5 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?


MacHeath 1 year, 5 months ago

Lawrence can support a few higher priced restaurants...If they are good. I wouldn't call the Hereford House high priced, only that the food was not worth what you paid. They grilled a pretty good steak, but the sides were about what you would get in any dive restaurant. A large slab of margarine? Really?? Who does that? There was a lot of work done to that space, but 14 grand seems a bit steep. What a@@ hole cashed in on that one? And helped an established restaurant go out of business? Inquiring minds want to know...


paul85 1 year, 5 months ago

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


SnakeFist 1 year, 5 months ago

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


lunacydetector 1 year, 5 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.


gccs14r 1 year, 5 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.


ILoveLawrence 1 year, 5 months ago

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


HutchSaltHawk 1 year, 5 months ago

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


1 year, 5 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.


opinion 1 year, 5 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.



JackMcKee 1 year, 5 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.


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