September 25, 2018

The Next Generation: Ronnie Grisanti’s at Regalia

The Commercial Appeal

September 25, 2018

The new Ronnie Grisanti’s is a labor of love.

“I knew my father wanted one more restaurant. I had to do this for him,” said chef and owner Judd Grisanti with tears in his eyes.

The Grisanti family has been serving its beloved Northern Italian fare in Memphis for more than 100 years. Judd’s great-grandfather Rinaldo opened his first Memphis restaurant in 1909. Over the years, the family has grown and branched out, and there have been several Grisanti-owned restaurants — each one loved by its customers.

“After my dad passed away last year, I decided it was time to open a new Ronnie Grisanti’s,” Judd said.

Judd went in search of a new location, considering spots all up and down the Poplar corridor.

“I knew I wanted about a 4,000- to 4,500-square-foot space.  One where I can be involved from the front door to the back door. A place I could really wrap my arms around,” he said.

A location in Regalia Shopping Center offered just what he was looking for in a restaurant. He approached Mike Miller, the owner of Heritage Tavern, and eventually made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“This space felt like home to me,” Judd said of the location that once was Mikasa Japanese Restaurant. “When my children were little, we’d come here for sushi. Like it was yesterday, I remember them making mini sushi rolls for my then 2-year-old daughter.”

The new restaurant is scheduled to open Sept. 28.

Fans of the original Ronnie Grisanti’s will be relieved to know Judd plans to serve many of his family’s most popular dishes. That said, the menu will have a modern touch.

“I am calling my new recipes ‘Antiquo-Nuovo,’” Judd said. “I am taking old world recipes and making them with modern ingredients and techniques.”

Judd has invested in such modern cooking equipment as sous-vide immersion circulators, smoke guns and even a new state-of-the-art pasta machine.

Just like when his father was in charge, Judd plans to make all the restaurant’s pasta in house.

“Our pasta machine of 30 years broke this summer,” Judd said with a look of heartbreak on his face. “I wish we could still use it but it would have cost more to repair it than replace it.”

The new machine should make pasta-making more efficient, but it’s obvious Judd would have chosen sentimentality over efficiency on this particular piece of equipment.

“We will be making homemade ravioli, tortellini, tortelloni and even linguine with squid ink,” said Judd when asked to mention a few of the pastas they will prepare by hand.