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VOL. 121 | NO. 61 | Friday, March 17, 2006

Grisantis to Open Restaurant on South Main

Owners hope Glasshouse will become Downtown destination

By Andrew Ashby

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A TASTE OF ITALY: If everything goes according to plan, members of the Grisanti family could be putting a new 100-seat restaurant this summer in the art studio Glasshouse 383 at 383 S. Main St. -- Photograph By Andrew Ashby

If everything goes as planned, the Grisanti family could be returning to South Main Street, where their first restaurant opened in 1909.

Plans are in the works to open a 100-seat restaurant this summer in Glasshouse 383, a gallery at 383 S. Main St. that sells studio art glass.

The Grisanti family's original location was at 552 S. Main St., and Judd Grisanti, who is spearheading the new project, is looking forward to working in the area.

"My family started off Downtown on South Main," he said. "That's where my grandparents' first restaurant was, and it's going to be fun going back down there."

The early plan is for the restaurant to be called Spindini.

"Spindini is kind of like Italian tapas (small and simple Spanish dishes that can be put together to form a meal)," he said. "It's all skewered and there are going to be different dipping sauces and things like that."

The restaurant will be centered around a wood-burning oven and will feature pizzas and baked casserole dishes. There also could be a wine bar.

"We're going to be open late at night for that Downtown crowd," Grisanti said.

DunSum LLC bought buildings at 383 S. Main and 385 S. Main in 2004. Each space has roughly 3,600 square feet. Glasshouse 383 LLC leases the space at 383 S. Main for an art gallery and is looking to bring in more investors before adding a restaurant there.

"I refer to it as the community bank play, where community banks go out and get a bunch of guys to invest in the bank and part of what they do is generate loans and business for the bank," said Dan Robinson Jr., chief manager of Glasshouse 383 LLC. "We want to engage a similar concept with the restaurant. That is, get a group of people who are users and networkers around the initiative, so that we have a lot of people using it, which basically helps ensure its success."

"The conventional wisdom is that we're going to wait until after Memphis in May to start any renovation of the building for the restaurant. ... We just feel like it would be real disruptive and we could miss out on potential opportunities for functions or existing business if we're closed or having abbreviated operating hours during that period."
- Dan Robinson Jr.
Chief manager of Glasshouse 383 LLC

Glasshouse 383 had a bistro that opened in September 2004, but closed down after six months because of low foot traffic.

"We just knew pretty early that is was going to be a little while before there was enough momentum on South Main and that we were a little early on the retail/restaurant concept," Robinson said. "It also wasn't branded; it was not a destination restaurant. It wasn't like, 'Let's go to Grisanti's, let's go to Huey's' or anything like that."


Try, try again

Since the bistro closed, the space has been offered for private functions.

"It's been sought after for that, but we've always felt like we've needed to open it back up as a restaurant," Robinson said. "We've wanted to, especially in conjunction with what we've been working on next door, which is a glass studio that would be a resource for the art community locally."

Next to Glasshouse 383, the 3,600-square-foot 385 S. Main St. currently is being used as office space. However, Glasshouse 383 LLC is working toward turning it into Hotspot 385, a glass arts studio that would be operated in conjunction with the gallery and have some tie-ins with the restaurant.

Grisanti said his father, Rinaldo, and brother, Alex, will be partners in the new venture. He also said he will not be leaving his post as executive chef at Ronnie Grisanti and Sons Restaurant at 2855 Poplar Ave.

"It will be all my influences on the menu, and I'm sure I'll be down there pretty much every late night," Grisanti said. "I'll be down there for lunch, but I won't necessarily be there from 5 to 9."

Robinson said a firm opening date hasn't been set, although the group could make a decision later this month.

"The conventional wisdom is that we're going to wait until after Memphis in May to start any renovation of the building for the restaurant," Robinson said. "We have events scheduled at the Glasshouse, there's a Vesta Home Show and Memphis in May is going on. We just feel like it would be real disruptive and we could miss out on potential opportunities for functions or existing business if we're closed or having abbreviated operating hours during that period."


Bourgeois, anyone?

Grisanti said early plans are to have an upscale neighborhood restaurant like the ones in Italian cities such as Florence or Rome.

Even the restaurant's delivery service could have an Italian flair.

"We plan on having a couple of Vespas (small Italian motor scooters) out front and we're going to run those up and down Downtown and that area," Judd said. "We're going to be in the heart of all that new development going on Downtown in the South End. I'm excited. I'm very excited."

Robinson said the group hopes the restaurant will be a destination.

"Assuming everything comes off as planned, we're combining two destination operations: one, a restaurant that has as its creator a locally branded family, and then on the other side, a glass arts studio where people actually make glass and people who are not making glass can observe," he said.

Robinson said there are all kinds of potential tie-ins with the restaurant, the gallery and the glass studio.

"There's nothing set in stone, so it's probably not going to be appropriate to say, 'We're going to do this, we're going to do that,'" he said. "But there's going to be lots of ways to integrate what's going on in the hot shop with what's going on over in the restaurant."

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