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Johnny Brusco's New York style pizza chain headed to Sixth and Wakarusa
Outta my way. I gotta catch the subway to Sixth and Wakarusa.
What's that? Me fuhgeddaboudit? You fuhgeddaboudit. There has to be a subway to Sixth and Wakarusa. It's the capital of New York-style pizza.
The West Lawrence intersection already is home to two establishments that make New York-style pizza a big part of their menus — Morningstar's New York Pizza and the West Lawrence Johnny's Tavern location. Well, a third player in the renaissance of thin-crust pizza with slices large enough to serve as a makeshift ski mask is headed for the intersection.
Johnny Brusco's, a growing chain of New York-style pizza places, has signed a deal to locate in the former Godfather's Pizza location at 721 Wakarusa Drive, just a couple doors down from Johnny's and just a parking lot over from Morningstar's.
The landlord for the building, Lawrence developer Greg DiVilbiss, confirmed the new tenant, and an employee at one of Johnny Brusco's Kansas City metro area locations also confirmed the new location.
I wasn't able to get in touch with the principal of the new establishment, but the restaurant's website gives you a feel for the place. For those of you who miss the days of going into Godfather's with your elastic waistbands to enjoy its all you-can-eat buffet (I assume that's how we all did it), it doesn't appear those days are to return. The menu doesn't mention anything about buffets, but it does have a lot of lunch specials in the $5 to $9 range, and it has a lot more than pizza on it, too.
The menu includes more than a half dozen salads, ranging from strawberry pecan to buffalo chicken. Pasta also is on the menu, including baked ziti, stuffed ravioli, and a variety of spaghetti dishes. About 15 sub sandwiches are on the menu, as are traditional appetizers such as garlic knots, bruschetta and fried ravioli. There's even some kind of dessert called zeppoles, a traditional east coast-style Italian funnel cake, according to my vast knowledge of New York City. (Or perhaps that's what it said on the menu.)
According to the website, the chain has its roots in a little pizza shop near the campus of the University of Syracuse, but the operation in the 1970s branched off into Atlanta. It became a large chain in the Southeast, and now is expanding into the Midwest. The franchisee of the Lawrence restaurant also operates three Johnny Brusco's in the Kansas City area — two in Overland Park and one near K-10 and Ridgeview.
I don't have a timeline on when the restaurant may open, but my understanding is that the establishment has started advertising for employees, so I would guess an opening is around the corner.
Other news and notes from around town:
• Keep your eyes on a couple of pieces of land just north of Sixth and Wakarusa. City commissioners have approved the rezoning of two small parcels near the intersection of Wakarusa and Overland drives to allow commercial office development.
The rezoning includes a 1.65 acre lot on the west side of Wakarusa and north of Overland. That puts it just northwest of the Walmart store and on the front edge of about 25 acres of property owned by the city for use as a park someday. The rezoning also includes a 1.12 acre tract on the east side of Wakarusa and north of Overland. It basically is right behind home plate of the baseball field at Free State High.
Power commercial real estate broker Allison Vance Moore is marketing both properties, but no word yet on what type of development may occur there. Both lots previously were zoned urban reserve, a placeholder zoning designation. The new zoning is commercial-office, which allows uses such as doctor's offices, veterinary clinics, banks, and a host of office-oriented uses. Traditional retail is possible in the district, but generally on a very small scale.
• Also keep your eyes on Alan Mulally, surely one of the more successful graduates in the history of Lawrence High and Kansas University. Mulally, CEO of Ford, keeps having his name attached as a leading candidate to replace Steve Ballmer at Microsoft. There are lots of stories online about the possibility. Mulally only has committed to stay at Ford through the end of 2014, which has helped fuel the speculation, I'm sure. The bigger factor, of course, is that Mulally engineered a major turnaround of Ford, making it the only U.S. automaker that didn't accept a government bailout. He and outgoing Microsoft CEO Ballmer are reportedly good friends. There have been several articles online about the possibility of a Mulally-led Microsoft. Who knows if anything will come of it, but just think of it for a moment: A KU and LHS grad leading Bill Gates' company. It would be pretty cool.
But also think of this possibility. If Mulally doesn't end up at Microsoft, he may well be looking to retire. According to the reports I've seen, Mulally is 68. Lawrence and Douglas County have put a lot of effort into attracting retirees to the community. There's even a task force to study the issue. Maybe local leaders should create a task force to attract Alan Mulally to retire here. I only say that half in jest. A man of Mulally's talents and connections certainly could be a wonderful asset to Lawrence as it tries to establish itself as a major player in the technology world. So, maybe an Alan Mulally Attraction Task Force wouldn't be such a crazy idea.
Or, we can just hope he really likes New York style pizza. Then it would be a no-brainer.