Wednesday, June 29, 2011
By Leslie Turk

Popular restaurateur Gene Todaro takes it down a few notches.

The restaurant doesn’t quite take off like you’d hoped, and within a year a driver (who’s not even intoxicated) crashes into your building, causing $40,000 in damages. What would you do?

If you’re Gene Todaro, you use the unfortunate accident to assess the situation, shout a few curse words in your thick Sicilian accent and ultimately decide to make drastic changes. You relocate the damaged Elephant Room, a Kaliste Saloom/Ambassador Caffery eatery that offered a rare combination of beef and burlesque, near your Marcello’s Wine Market Café on the 300 block of Kaliste Saloom to create a synergistic combo. The downsized new Elephant Room will offer entertainment and “substantial bar food,” Todaro says.

Then you set out to find a replacement concept with a lower price point that’s more suitable to the workforce at the Kaliste Saloom/Ambassador intersection (namely, two major hospital complexes). In comes Bistro Byronz, a popular Baton Rouge-based restaurant with single locations in Shreveport and Mandeville. Home-fried chips topped with delicious homemade bleu cheese velouté sauce for $4.95 or an $8.95 turkey burger filled with gruyère cheese and topped with spinach, red bell peppers and combo dressing — with sweet potato frites, to boot — is hard to beat. “People are looking for less expensive dining alternatives,” notes Todaro, who has entered into a licensing agreement with the bistro’s founder, Mike Kantrow. “The price-point is more in tune with the lunch crowd.”

Todaro isn’t one to make excuses, but trying to launch a high-end steakhouse a month after the BP spill would be challenging for anyone, even someone with an already successful track record here and on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, where Enoteca Marcello’s Wine Bar & Café is a hot spot.

Bistro Byronz is scheduled to open in 60-90 days, and the new Elephant Room, which is taking over the former Bella Notte, should open within a month.

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