Chef Judd Grisanti is no longer with Ronnie Grisanti’s restaurant.
His last day in the restaurant was Dec. 3.
Grisanti said leaving the restaurant — named in honor of his father — permanently was not what he wanted. He left due to illness in the early fall and returned briefly in November, but he left a few weeks later due to his ongoing health concerns. He has struggled with health issues for several years.
Grisanti now plans to file a lawsuit against Tuscany South LLL, which owns Ronnie Grisanti’s. He made the announcement on a Facebook post on Friday.
“Yesterday when the restaurant did not acknowledge the fifth anniversary of his (his father Ronnie Grisanti) passing, I knew then it was nothing but about greed and money,” he told The Commercial Appeal. “I am not giving up my father’s name and legacy when I stood by him in the kitchen for 55 years.”
He said in May he was offered a separation agreement by Tuscany South LLC, the terms of which he did not agree with.
Randi Belisomo, Ronnie Grisanti’s executive manager, said the restaurant had no choice but to terminate the relationship, citing Grisanti’s long absences during the restaurant’s three-plus years of operations.
“Dino Grisanti, Randy Fishman and my late father, Nick, started this business in 2018 to honor the legacy of Ronnie Grisanti and to provide a prime opportunity for Ronnie’s son, Judd — their brother and friend — to thrive as a chef,” Belisomo said. “Despite many challenges, this restaurant has thrived amid a rich local culinary scene for the past four years. We would not be where we are were it not for our family of employees — Judd included — who have made the hospitality happen here at 6150 Poplar .”
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She said they “love Judd” and “explored every route possible” to keep him at the restaurant.
“However, his personal issues forced him from our kitchen in early December 2021,” she said. “His talent as a chef is unparalleled. It is our regret that Judd was unable to sustain professional standards and complete requirements of his position.”
Grisanti said his suit will include claims for use of his father’s name, the memorabilia in the restaurant, recipes, equipment, the restaurant Facebook page and phone number — all items Grisanti said belong to him.
Grisanti expressed frustration at the situations he said chefs like him face in the restaurant industry. “Most chefs can’t afford to put a million dollars into a restaurant, so they have to get investors,” he said, adding that often chefs and investors become at odds.
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Grisanti said he plans to continue being a chef. “For now, I’ll do some pop-ups in Memphis, Oxford and New Albany,” he said. “I want it to be fun again. I want to keep the Grisanti legacy going.”
The Grisanti family has been serving its beloved Northern Italian fare in Memphis for more than 100 years. Judd Grisanti’s great-grandfather Rinaldo Grisanti 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. Ronnie Grisanti opened his eponymous restaurant in 1979.
Tuscany South LLC, which is partially owned by Grisanti’s older brother Dino Grisanti, owns the restaurant, its name and the Ronnie Grisanti’s retail take-and-bake foods business that was launched during the pandemic.
The restaurant plans to continue to operate under the Ronne Grisanti’s name.
“Our loyal and expanding clientele knows they can continue to turn to us for the same Italian traditions and innovative specials that have been prepared and served by the same folks since the beginning,” Belisomo said.
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining Reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.