Since 1951, Gennaro's Lounge has been a landmark on South Broadway. Joe Gennaro opened the place; his son, Leonard, ran it for decades. And when Jason Sheehan visited Gennaro's last year, he found it a classic example of the kind of neighborhood Italian joint that you find across the country, joints so similar in feel, he wrote, that "there is only one Italian restaurant in this country."
But you won't find it at 2598 South Broadway. Not anymore. Not open, at least. Leonard sold the building and the business to John Cook last month, and three days before the deal closed, he went over to the restaurant, changed the locks and put a sign on the door noting that it was "under new management," listing the number of a phone he'd just picked up at Wal-Mart.
Then he took two weeks to clean up 58 years of history.
He wasn't really planning to sell the place. But he'd had some health problems that had kept him away from the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, and the people he'd brought in to run Gennaro's didn't really understand what's involved in running a restaurant, the grind. "You do it every day for a week," Leonard says. "Then you do it for a month. Then you do it for a year. Then you do it for five years."
Or fifty. One day, he called Jon Cook, who's been doing deals up and down Broadway, just to talk about how he might go about selling it. "And Cook says, 'I'll buy it,'" he recalls. Two months later, he called Cook back, and took him up on his offer.
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Some day, Cook might develop the property, which is on a choice corner lot. "From Mississippi to Hampden, Broadway is going to be the hottest spot in the next five years," Leonard says. "It's going to be unbelievable." In the meantime, Cook's stepson is taking over the liquor license, and the restaurant could reopen.
"It's ready to go," Leonard points out. "There are dishes, napkins, plates. You could buy a little booze and a little food, and open the next day."
But it will be the first day in 58 years that a Gennaro hasn't owned the joint. -- Patricia Calhoun