Aug. 16—TUPELO — Raised in an Italian family, trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, and mentored by Italian chefs, it’s fair to say that Judd Grisanti knows all about Italian cuisine.
And he’s ready to share it in Tupelo.
Grisanti has partnered with Clay Knight for monthly pop-up dinner parties called The Original Grisanti’s at Uptown. They will be held every Thursday and Saturday throughout the year at Knight’s Uptown Grocery at 316 N. Spring St., starting this Thursday.
But people in northeast Mississippi may be familiar with Grisanti food. There are the Memphis-area restaurants bearing the family name, and during the pandemic takeout has been made available at area grocery stores, including Todd’s Big Star and Brooks Grocery.
Grisanti recently sold his stake in the family business, including take-out meals, to strike out on his own. He admits the family breakup was not amicable but declined to discuss it further.
Nonetheless, he’s ready to start a new chapter, first with pop-up experiences, in hopes of opening his own restaurant again.
“I’m not here to rock the boat or kick anybody out or say I’m bringing authentic Italian to Tupelo,” he said. “I just want to have fun again and share my passion for food. That’s all.”
Grisanti is the fourth generation of the famous family. He cooked alongside his father, Rinaldo, and his father, Elfo, as well as his uncle “Big John”.
“I was pinching dumplings as a kid and standing on wooden Coca-Cola cans,” he said. “I always make my pasta by hand.”
Grisanti intends to bring an eclectic menu he calls “antico nuovo,” where Old World meets New World.
“I really like molecular gastronomy like sous vide and liquid nitrogen, but it’s not meant to be intimidating,” he said. “It’s nothing new and people have been doing it for ages. We’ll make different ice creams or gelatos for example. We can dehydrate or freeze things and get different textures and flavors – that’s what I like to do.”
Fresh pasta and seafood will be on the menu, along with pizza and meat dishes. The menu will evolve depending on the availability of fresh ingredients.
Grisanti insists that while the food may look and feel upscale, it won’t be priced that way.
“Have we done something no one else has done before? No,” Grisanti said. “Somebody did it somewhere somehow and maybe we did it with a twist and our own little touches and style.”