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Downtown Italian restaurant closes; city looks to put "rolling mural" on city transit bus
If your March Madness party included plans of Meatball Madness or Marinara Madness or, heck, even 15 pounds of Lasagna Madness (alliteration is overrated), you now have one less option in Lawrence. Intorno, the downtown Italian restaurant at Eighth and Massachusetts streets, has closed.
Already, the rumor mill is churning about a Kansas City restaurant company coming in with a new eatery in the space. If you remember, a few weeks ago I briefly mentioned in a column that there was speculation Coal Vines pizza and wine bar was coming to downtown Lawrence.
Coal Vines has a location on the Country Club Plaza, and features some upscale pizza, wine and cocktails. Well, the second part of the rumor I had heard back in February, but didn't report, was that Intorno was closing and Coal Vines was going to take its spot. Half of that rumor has come to be, so it will be interesting to see if the other half does as well.
I called down to Coal Vines' Plaza location in recent days. An employee there told me he indeed believes a downtown Lawrence venture is in the future for the company, but he said the restaurant may not operate under the Coal Vines name. So, maybe it will be a pizza place, or maybe it won't. He also didn't give any details on a specific location. He referred me to an owner of the company, but thus far I haven't had luck in making contact.
It appears the ownership group does other things than Coal Vines. The Kansas City Star recently reported that Zach Marten and Bret Springs, owners of Coal Vines on the Plaza, recently opened Westport Ale House in the popular Westport district of Kansas City.
But again, all of this is just speculation, so take it for whatever you think it is worth. The folks at Intorno did seem to believe another restaurant was slated for the spot, but they didn't have details.
As for Intorno, chef and owner Jim Vaughn said the restaurant — which was in the spot that formerly housed Esquina and before that was the longtime home of Round Corner Drug — just never could produce the needed volume of business during its run of a little more than a year.
"We just couldn't fill the seats, and the overhead was just too high," said Vaughn, who previously was part of the successful Charlie Gitto's Italian restaurant in The Hill district of St. Louis. "It is really stiff competition on Mass. Street. It seems like the staples are busy, and the other guys get to try."
It has been a bad couple of months for Italian restaurants in Lawrence. As I briefly mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Bambinos Italian restaurant in West Lawrence also has closed.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Downtown murals have been in the news lately, but here's a new twist to the idea: A rolling mural. It looks like the city of Lawrence is going to introduce the concept to us. City commissioners are being asked to approve a partnership with Van Go to paint a mural depicting Lawrence's history on a 20-foot transit bus.
The idea is that Van Go, which is a nonprofit agency that uses art to work with youth, would design and paint an extensive mural that would then be placed on the bus via a vinyl wrap.
I don't have a picture of the proposed mural, but according to information from the city, it sounds multifaceted. The hood of the bus would include several images important to American Indians who populated the area, including a white buffalo, sunflowers and other vegetation. The back of the bus would have an image of John Brown emerging from storm clouds. (That may get your attention while texting and driving.)
The passenger side of the bus will include images of Quantrill's Raid, and an image of a river evoking the idea of a broken heart. The passenger's side of the bus would have wagon trains, the railroad, the underground railroad, a steamboat, and a path that leads to a hill and familiar KU buildings.
Van Go has received some grant money to help create the mural, according to a city memo. The city is proposing to spend about $4,000 to have the vinyl wrap produced and applied to the bus.
I haven't heard a timeline for the project, but I'll keep an eye out for it. Really, I will. I don't want to be surprised by John Brown at a stop light.