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Crimaldi's getting new operator, makeover

One of downtown Elkhart’s oldest bars is getting another makeover.

Mike Lucchese will operate Crimaldi’s Restaurant & Lounge, 117-9 E. Jackson Blvd. It’s closed as he paints the interior, changes the menu and takes over as the operator. He’ll lease it from Mike Crimaldi, who purchased the Bozzo’s bar in October 1980 with his mother, Shirley. They renamed it a few years later.

Crimaldi has had the business on the market for about three years while he kept operating it. Lucchese moved back to Elkhart from Chicago 1½ years ago and worked with his cousins at Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant, 665 C.R. 17, Elkhart.

He wanted his own place and worked out a deal with Crimaldi.

“Why wouldn’t I want it?” he said.

Eventually the name will become Turzo’s in honor of his grandmother. When it reopens as early as Sept. 8, it’ll have a new menu with Chicago hot dogs, Italian beef and other sandwiches, as well as pasta.

Lucchese plans to make his own bread, sauces and serve a sausage sandwich with onions, sauce and cheese that is similar to what was at Nicky D’s on Harrison Street years ago.

John Castenada, who has cooked for Crimaldi for 15 to 20 years, will continue with Lucchese. Crimaldi will help as Lucchese opens with his wife Tonda. “I gotta keep an eye on him,” Crimaldi said.

Hours for Crimaldi’s will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

The buildings at 117 and 119 E. Jackson have a rich history. Business started there in 1883, according to history provided to Crimaldi by Elkhart historian Paul Thomas. In 1899 it became a grocery, bakery and saloon. Over the years, 117 was mostly a grocery or tavern, including Bozzo’s. The western address at 119 was a tire store but often housed various shoe repairman.

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