Proud Richard's prepares to open in former Lonzerotti's space

Proud Richard’s, a new contemporary American cuisine restaurant, will open this month in the space formerly occupied by Lonzerotti’s Italia Restaurant, a Jacksonville staple since 1987.

The original owners, Mike and Betty Goldasich, transformed the historic Chicago and Alton Railroad station building at 600 E. State St. into an Italian restaurant more than three decades ago. The most recent owners, Frank and Sue Whitney, sold the restaurant in June. New owner Joe Standley is a Jacksonville native who recently returned after a decade working in the Chicago hospitality industry.

“I grew up here, and after I graduated from Routt (Catholic High School) in 2011, I moved to Chicago for culinary school,” said Standley. He then worked for a variety of Chicago-area restaurants, including the catering department at Goose Island, running a rooftop kitchen at Wrigley field and managing a kitchen and cocktail lounge.

“I had just helped open a place in downtown Chicago and we shut down for good because of COVID,” Standley said. With some time off to reflect on his next step, he realized he wanted to go out on his own.  “It was time for me to take things into my own hands. I was tired of not being in the driver’s seat and being able to make changes.”

Standley returned to his hometown of Jacksonville and started looking for a location for his new venture. While he was initially thinking of a tavern concept, when he learned that Lonzorotti’s was for sale, he decided to take advantage of that opportunity.

“This will be a completely new concept. We’re making a fresh start, from the menu to renovations to the dining room,” said Standley. “There will be a large focus on seasonality and utilizing local products,” Standley said. “I’ve been speaking to some of the smaller farmers nearby, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of everything.”

The first version of the menu includes entrees such as steak, braised pork shank, seared Halibut, squash carbonara and short rib pici pasta. While the menu no longer focuses on Italian cuisine, Standley said he will continue to offer a pasta dish or two.

Standley also said that the famous Lonzerotti’s salad dressing will continue to be sold in grocery stores, since that is now produced in St. Louis by a separate business entity. Coincidentally, when he returned to Jacksonville, he began making and selling his own salad dressing as a way of having some income while he worked to get his new restaurant venture off the ground. His signature recipe will become the house dressing for Proud Richard’s.

While Standley had hoped to be open earlier this fall, he said that contractors’ work schedules and supply chain issues contributed to the delays. He is now planning a soft opening Nov. 22-24 with the grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 27.

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