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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Bootleggers is all grown up

  • If you want to spend an evening at Bootleggers, you’re too late.

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  • If you want to spend an evening at Bootleggers, you’re too late.
    The legendary Frontenac nightspot is now known as Santino’s Sports Bar and Eatery. Santino’s began doing business on March 15, but grand opening festivities are planned on Saturday.
    “Bootleggers has grown up,” said Mike Bicknell, driving force behind the new business. “This bar has a history of being more of a college bar. Now you have bikers sitting at one end of the bar and businessmen at the other end. You’ll see a table full of high school students, tables of college students and tables of families with children. We really do have a family-friendly atmosphere here.”
    Wendy Ginavan, manager, said that there’s no more night clubbing or dancing at the establishment.
    “We’re more restaurant than bar,” she said. “I put together a menu for high school students and took it to the school. They text me their lunch  order, then come in and pick it up. I usually get 20 to 30 kids a day from the high school.”
    Bicknell credits Ginavan, who owned Bob’s Grill with husband Steve for several years, with developing the menu.
    “When Bootleggers shut down last time, Tom Moody mentioned  to  me that I ought to do something with it,” Bicknell said. “I thought about it, and the first person I wanted to manage it was Wendy. I probably wouldn’t have done it if she wouldn’t do it.”
    The menu features a variety of sandwiches and burgers, salads, wings and nachos with daily specials. Bicknell said he has personally tried most of them.
    “All our fries are hand-cut, and we have regular and curly,” he said. “We put pulled pork on our nachos and they’re terrific. A lot of times I’ll come in here and think I’ll just have a salad, then I ask what the special is and decide to have that. I’ve gained weight since we’ve opened.”
    The pulled pork is a staple in several items.
    “We smoke it in house,” Ginavan said.
    Names of menu items include “Parole Board Wings,”  “Breaded Bullets” (fried pickles), the  John Dillinger (a chicken fried steak sandwich) and “The Corleone,” a burger topped with chili and covered with cheddar cheese.
    “Frontenac is an Italian town, and we wanted to keep that theme,” Bicknell said. “I thought it would be fun  to have gangster names.”
    That includes the name of the restaurant. In “The Godfather” books by Mario Puzo and the associated films, Santino “Sonny” Corleone is the oldest son of Don Vito Corleone, and is brutally gunned down while rushing to the aid of his  sister.
    For the sports bar aspect of the business, there are 12 TV sets for viewing sports.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We also painted a football field on the floor,” Ginavan said.
    While a lot of changes have been made to the establishment, Tom Moody said that in some ways  it’s really getting back to the way it used to be.
    “Kenny Falletti and his sister, Margaret Cukjati,  built this building in  the 1970s and I started working for Kenny around 1982,” Moody said.  “Kenny’s and Louie’s was a recreation center, a pool hall. I and Jess Maceli took it over in 1991 and ran it roughly for 20 years, with Ken Krumsick as our manager. We changed the name to Bootleggers. When Jess married and moved, Ken stepped up.”
    He said that he opened the doors at 8 a.m. and a crowd of regulars, retired men, came in and stayed until noon.
    “Then we’d serve 50 to 80 high school kids in 30 minutes,” Moody said. “Then the older men came back, and the college kids came in from 6 p.m. to closing time.”
    While the old  Bootleggers wasn’t a sports bar, it drew quite a few sports celebrities.
    “Ben Davidson of the Oklahoma Raiders came in, and Dave Casper came in all the time,” Moody said. “Bobby Czyz the boxer was here. Most of them were in Frontenac visiting the  Pallucca family. Steve Pallucca was a dear friend, one of the characters who made this place what it was.  We had a band in here once, and personally I didn’t care much for it, but two weeks later it was on the MTV Awards.”
    There were other memorable happenings."
    “In  rodeo time, we had guys ride a horse through here,” Moody said. “We had guys ride a Harley through here. There were lots of good times and laughs. Dozens of people I know met here and later on got married. This was the hub of the community, and I think it’s going to get back to that.”
    It will probably be a busy place Saturday. Ginavan said that the grand opening festivities will start at 2 p.m.
    “We’ll have smoked ribs, turkey  legs and link sausage,” she said. “There’s going to be live entertainment all day and all night. Jay Temaat will present a magic show at 6:30 p.m., the Shane Duling Band will play at 8  p.m. and Clean Slate will come on at 10 p.m.”
    Bicknell said he may look at expanding and opening more restaurants if Santino’s continues to do well, but modestly said that he doesn’t expect to exceed the success of his father, Gene Bicknell, who at one time was the largest Pizza Hut franchise owner on the planet.
    “For one thing, my father was younger when he started out,” Bicknell said.
    He and Ginavan have the blessing of Moody, who got out of the business around 10 years ago to have more time with his family.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I only hope that they enjoy this as much as I did,” he said.
     
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