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Bellini’s demise was greatly exaggerated

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Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

After watching Bellini’s Underground close from a perch on his rooftop bar at Tommy’s Italian-American Grill on West Memorial Road, legendary local restaurateur Tommy Byrd hatched a plan to make a liar out of Thomas Wolfe.

Byrd, with a swipe of his pen, is officially rescinding the farewell we granted Bellini’s.

Last month, Diane Buthion closed Bellini’s Underground, apparently ending nearly three decades for the Italian eatery in the Waterford Properties office complex at NW 63 Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

But it looks like Waterford will not have to bother taking down the Bellini’s sign that still hangs over the parking garage because Byrd, original founder of Bellini’s Italian Ristorante and Grill, has signed a lease to take over the vacant restaurant space for a revival.

To do it, Byrd sold the property his reboot of Tommy’s Italian-American Grill calls home. Tommy told me he sold it to Jim Burke (with whom Byrd was once a partner in Emerging Brands) and will move his entire staff over to the Waterford to reopen Bellini’s.

“I was going to move

Tommy’s over there (to the Waterford),” Byrd said. “But I was down in Austin visiting my daughter, and she loved Bellini’s. When I told her I planned to call it Tommy’s she said, ‘No, dad, you’ve got to call it Bellini’s.’”

I visited with Tommy on Friday at the original Bellini’s space where demolition of the bar was already under way.

Byrd promises a brighter, more open Bellini’s this time around, and he plans to make the sprawling covered patio a happy hour and brunch destination.

Byrd founded Bellini’s in 1990. Response was so enthusiastic he opened the original Tommy’s in Northpark Mall in 1992 then a second Bellini’s in Edmond in 1995. From there, Byrd invested in Poblano Grill and a handful of others along with Burke and a group of local restaurateurs. Byrd left that group five years ago to reboot Tommy’s on Memorial.

Tommy and crew hope to be up and running in the next two months.

As for the space Tommy leaves behind, he said Burke and partners will fill the space with a Bricktown Brewery. This will make the fifth metro location.

Tommy’s Italian-American Grill will run its final service on April 18, so don’t miss your last chance on the rooftop patio at 5516 W Memorial before the final day.

Related Photos
Robert Painter and Tommy Byrd on the patio of Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Robert Painter and Tommy Byrd on the patio of Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c0a5d9fc2ccbe8ae4e9b63d6e4776c4d.jpg" alt="Photo - Robert Painter and Tommy Byrd on the patio of Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman" title="Robert Painter and Tommy Byrd on the patio of Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Robert Painter and Tommy Byrd on the patio of Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4aa48ff998d2ca62d21342d910714994.jpg" alt="Photo - Tommy’s Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. will soon be a Bricktown Brewery. [Oklahoman Archive photo] " title=" Tommy’s Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. will soon be a Bricktown Brewery. [Oklahoman Archive photo] "><figcaption> Tommy’s Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. will soon be a Bricktown Brewery. [Oklahoman Archive photo] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-03453fe45d4708f172cd404943567be3.jpg" alt="Photo - Bellini’s restaurant. [Oklahoman archive photo] " title=" Bellini’s restaurant. [Oklahoman archive photo] "><figcaption> Bellini’s restaurant. [Oklahoman archive photo] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fb6c82e12d54f806ff9451a334168381.jpg" alt="Photo - Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman" title="Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Tommy's Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, Friday October, 17 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Dave Cathey

The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene. Read more ›

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