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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 24, 2005

2 Waikiki eateries serve last meals

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Trattoria Italian Restaurant, which has welcomed tourists and celebrities from Akebono to Zulu, offered up its last plate of scallopini last night as its sister restaurant, Davey Jones Ribs, served its final rack of ribs.

Trattoria Italian Restaurant, popular with tourists and Islanders for 32 years, closed last night to make way for the $460 million Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment project, as did its nearby sister restaurant, Davey Jones Ribs. New sites are being sought for both.

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"It's a funeral," owner Fred Livingston said yesterday while preparing for the final dinner seating for both Trattoria and Davey Jones.

The restaurants are around the corner from one another on Kalia Road and Lewers Street but have to make way for an April 1 groundbreaking for Outrigger Enterprises' $460 million Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment project that includes hotels, restaurants and retail businesses.

The project will redevelop 7.9 acres of land along Lewers Street, Beach Walk, Kalia Road and Saratoga Road. The first phase, which includes a retail entertainment center and extensive hotel renovations, is scheduled for completion late next year.

Outrigger so far has announced eight tenants for the new retail entertainment center, of which two — ABC Stores and Maui Divers — are current tenants. Outrigger officials have said that other existing tenants may return or possibly move to other Waikiki properties.

Livingston has been looking for new Waikiki sites for both restaurants without any luck.

"There just isn't anything available for what I can afford to pay," Livingston said. "We wanted to keep both restaurants in Waikiki because they're popular with the tourists. But there really isn't much around."

The closure of Trattoria and Davey Jones leaves Livingston with ownership of the Crouching Lion Inn in Ka'a'awa, Sunset Grill in Restaurant Row and Don Ho's Island Grill in Aloha Tower Marketplace.

"I'll still have something to do," Livingston said.

But he always had a fondness for Trattoria, which started him in the restaurant business 22 years ago.

He took possession of Trattoria while it was in bankruptcy and "it's been a major money maker since the day I took it over."

The restaurant was 10 years old at the time, and Livingston never saw a need to alter the menu, which includes lots of pasta dishes from $10.95 to $19.95, a 12-ounce New York steak and the popular $23.95 scallopini.

Over the years, Livingston expanded into other restaurants including Matteo's, which he sold last year, and the Tahitian Lanai.

Four years ago, he also took over the shuttered Pieces of 8 restaurant on Lewers Street and reopened it as Davey Jones Ribs.

As news of the closures spread, Trattoria found itself booked last night with longtime customers, former employees and their families.

Livingston decided to close the doors on both restaurants last night to give him enough time for an employee appreciation party tonight at Don Ho's, followed by an auction Saturday to sell off hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and restaurant equipment.

The auction begins at 10 a.m. at Trattoria on Kalia Road and includes two walls of signed photos of celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Anthony Quinn and Jimmy Borges, as well as antique chandeliers and stained glass windows.

When Trattoria's goods are spoken for, the auction will move around the corner to Davey Jones's Lewers Street site to sell nautical memorabilia, such as ships' wheels, mounted sailfish, an old fashioned gasoline pump fashioned into a fish bowl, photos and antique safes.

Davey Jones was known for its rib and chicken dishes, kalua pork with sweet steamed cabbage and its salad bar.

"Oh yeah," Livingston said. "The salad bar's for sale, too."

The money from the auction will help pay Livingston's vendors, he said.

While Davey Jones continued to draw good crowds, the building showed constant signs of wear.

"It's sad from a business standpoint that we have to close," said restaurant consultant Richard Swartz, who was brought in to shut down the restaurant. "But we have constant plumbing problems and electrical problems. Everything needs refurbishing."

Workers hung a little sign in the window explaining the closure and asking customers to look for both restaurants to reappear someday, somewhere new.

"About the only thing we can say is, we're looking for a place," Schwartz said. "When you come back, look for our name."

Advertiser staff writer Lynda Arakawa contributed to this report. Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8085.