The former Cliftons Pizza Co. on Frankfort Avenue will remain in the Italian food family.
Building owner Sheila Tasman told Insider that the La Grange-based restaurant Steve-O’s Italian Kitchen is opening a second location at 2230 Frankfort Ave. The address was occupied by Cliftons for more than 28 years until mid-September when it abruptly closed.
“I had a lot of interest in that space, and when it came down to it, there were a couple that really wanted it, and it was difficult,” Tasman said, noting “it was a great problem to have.”
Tasman said she ultimately chose to sign a lease agreement with Steve-O’s owner, Steve Tingle, because of the quality of food and level of respect people have for the restaurant, similar to Cliftons.
“Not only did they have quality food, they also had music like Cliftons did and experience. I thought it would be great for the community,” she said.
Both Tasman and Tingle emphasized the connection between Cliftons Pizza and Steve-O’s by noting that at one time, both were highlighted side-by-side in The Courier Journal as two of the best pizzerias in Louisville.
“We’re a very, very similar business model to Cliftons. I think it is going to be somewhat the same but with a bigger selection, a little bit more expansive menu, and we will have every bit as good of quality. Cliftons was an institution in this neighborhood, and that’s what we are trying to accomplish here,” Tingle told Insider Louisville.
Steve-O’s original location opened at 4205 W. Hwy 146 in La Grange on the day before Thanksgiving in 2005. Tingle hopes to open the new location in Clifton around the same time, late November of this year, in time for an annual meeting of the Italian American Club at Cliftons Pizza.
“I found out about the location through the grapevine and just thought it was a good time to do it; the economy seems robust,” he said.
Tingle had operated a second location in Crestwood at one point, but the recession and the cannibalization of the La Grange location led him to close it after less than two years, he said.
“It just went bad,” he said. “I was basically picking my own pocket.”
Given the current state of the economy and the distance between La Grange and Clifton, Tingle said he believes the new second location will work out better.
The most drastic changes Tingle plans to make to the space are in the kitchen, where Chef Supply will add new equipment needed for Steve-O’s expansive menu, which includes classic pasta dishes, sub sandwiches, salads, chicken wings, Stromboli, different types of parmigiana and pizzas.
Otherwise, when the restaurant opens, Tingle said, “it will be a work in progress.” He will paint the restaurant before it opens and make some other cosmetic changes, but for the most part, he said he’s focused on opening Steve-O’s in Clifton and then making improvements over time.
“It will still have the neighborhood, hole-in the-wall, mom and pop” atmosphere, Tingle told Insider, and it may not be pretty, but “I think if you put good food on the table, that’s the main thing.”
Tingle plans to hire a handful of employees to work in the kitchen and front of the house to start and then staff up from there as needed.
The hours of operation for Steve-O’s and the days it will be open aren’t set, but it will likely stay open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. or midnight on the weekends. Tingle said he doesn’t want to be a bar.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I hope people will be patient with a new restaurant trying to get its feet.”