Downtown Italian restaurant now closed

Saturday, August 25, 2007 | 4:46 p.m. CDT; updated 11:34 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — After 17 years in business, Trattoria Strada Nova has closed its doors.

For owner Rocky Galloway, the restaurant at 21 N. Ninth St. was more than just a business.

“It was everything for me, it was my life, my identity, it was a child to me,” he said. “I hate to see it turn this way.”

Galloway said business had slowed at Trattoria during the past couple of years, creating financial problems. He said the restaurant had fallen behind in paying sales taxes.

“If you don’t have money to pay everybody then you have to make decisions on who to pay, and that’s what I ran into,” Galloway said.

About two months ago, Cheryl and Rocky Galloway had to make a decision whether to renew the restaurant’s liquor license and risk further debt or to cut their losses and get out. The couple decided it would be best to walk away.

The couple will continue to run their brunch spot across the street, Cucina Sorella.

Blue Note owner Richard King has been a regular at Trattoria since it opened — he even held his wedding reception there.

“That restaurant opened almost in the same month that I opened the Blue Note,” said King, whose music club is located next door.

Over the years, King recalls musicians of all kinds enjoying the Italian cuisine before and after performances. “Bands who are coming to town now say to me ‘Where are they? What happened?’”

Trattoria was a hot spot for out-of-towners and locals celebrating everything from holidays to anniversaries.

Even big name celebrities made a point to stop by when coming through town. Galloway laughed as he recalled Danny Glover’s trip to Trattoria during his visit to MU.

“He had seven orders of calamari,” Galloway said. “I have never seen anybody order so much calamari in my life.”

Other famed faces that have appeared in Trattoria include Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chuck Berry and Blondie’s Debra Harry.

Lisa Kuttenkuler worked at Trattoria for ten months and was laid off when it closed. She now works at Chris McD’s on Forum Boulevard.

Her experience at Trattoria helped her get the job, she said.

“I applied to so many places downtown and around Columbia and the second they saw that I had worked at Trattoria they just knew right away that I had the experience that they were looking for,” she said.

Self-proclaimed townie Lisbeth Yasuda will miss the high-end eatery.

“They had a very diverse menu, not just your stereotypical idea of what an Italian restaurant should be,” she said.

The restaurant featured Northern Italian cuisine and included an ever-changing menu with items such as American sturgeon caviar and seared duck breast.

But the menu might have been a detriment to Trattoria in its final stages.

“We printed a new menu every day depending on what was fresh,” said Galloway, recognizing the modern comforts found in the consistency of fast-food chains. “We refused to compromise or to change our integrity, and I think that’s what hurt us.”

Trattoria continued selling local products, but in the end the restaurant was putting out more than it was taking in.

Galloway believes business was also hurt by popular in-house, chef-style kitchens.

Galloway said he doesn’t plan to open another restaurant any time soon. He’s also not sure what the plans are for the building.

The owner of the building, Tom Rippeto, could not be reached for comment.

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april hennigan August 26, 2007 | 5:17 p.m.

Although we all agree that it is sad to see Trattoria closing its doors, it should be mentioned that the original owners of the restaurant were Teri and Tom Rippeto, father and daughter team who sold the restaurant to Rocky and Cheryl Galloway and opened a successful restaurant in Denver. It was Teri's ideas and menus that were left in the hands of Rocky and Cheryl that will be missed most of all. The restaurant was a huge success when the Rippeto's left it in the hands of Rocky. Poor money management and personal problems after the sale is obviously what led to the demise of such an outstanding establishment. Hats off to the Rippeto's who tried to leave us with a bit culture and fine dining. We're sorry it was lost.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin August 27, 2007 | 10:20 a.m.

Give me a break!

To imply that Rocky and Cheryl Galloway mismanaged money and had personal problems that somehow led to Trat's closing is simply not fair.

You could continue your comment by adding:

"The restaurant was a huge success when the Rippeto's left it in the hands of Rocky....over a decade ago."

Since then, Columbia has had a rush of chain restaurants that greatly increased competition; the nation had 9/11, which hurt all restaurants; and we enacted a smoking ban which decreased traffic downtown generally (I think you could smoke in Trat's bar, so it probably didn't help business there either).

Finally, with respect to the Mr. Rippeto, it was my understanding that the rent in his building -- which he did not sell to the Galloways with the business -- was at or above $5,000 a month and headed higher.

A number of long-time restaurants have closed all over town, including Old Chicago Pizza most recently.

Running a restaurant is one of the hardest of all small business endeavors. Running a restaurant for one year is a major achievement; five years a true marvel; and ten or more years a bloody miracle!

The Rippetos may have started a tradition of culture and fine dining in downtown Columbia, but for many many years, it's been the Galloways who continued and enhanced it.

(Report Comment)
april hennigan August 27, 2007 | 3:24 p.m.

Enhanced it right into closing.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 12, 2007 | 10:31 a.m.

Right into closing 14 years later (I said a decade ago -- it was almost a decade and a half)!

To put this into perspective, Rocky and Cheryl took over Trat when light from a star 14 light years away -- that's 8.22989974 × 10^13 miles or
82,298,997,400,000 (about 83 trillion miles) -- started its journey toward Earth.

They closed the restaurant voluntarily just as that starlight arrived. It was a long and successful journey for both starlight and Galloways.

When I see "Hennigan's" -- Columbia's new upscale bistro --open even for a year, then we'll talk.

Until then, I'll be looking for "Galloway's."

(Report Comment)

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