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Melini bringing Italian cuisine to Ironton

Ironton residents will soon have a taste of Italy.

Kentucky entrepreneur Venus Melini — owner of Melini Cucina Italian Eatery — will be bringing his brand of Italian cooking to Ironton.

Five years ago, Melini opened his first restaurant in Grayson, Ky., and then expanded to Morehead and Mount Sterling in Kentucky.

Now after a road trip by the mayor of Ironton and a member of the Ironton Port Authority, Melini and crew are remodeling the former CR Thomas Old Place on 124 S. Second St., and hope to be open by the beginning of November.

Melini, a native of Sicily, said he decided to open a restaurant in Ironton because of the number of people who traveled from Ironton, Ashland and Russell, Ky.

“They really liked it, and we thought we would move this way to show the people we are Italian from Sicilia,” he said.

Melini said he and the mayor have been working on finding a location since last October.

“I’m really happy because now they won’t have to drive to Grayson, they can just come here,” Melini said. “I just want to make everyone happy. You come to my place and try it, you’ll be addicted to it.”

The upscale restaurant will feature dishes such as ham and spinach and vegetable calzones as well as Melini stromboli and baked lasagna. The typical price for a dinner entr/e will be between $16 and $19. The eatery will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

“If you’re going to different places, they will charge you $40, I don’t know why they’ve been charging too much,” he said. “Maybe their rent is higher or something.”

Melini promised that the dishes would be the same at all the restaurants.

“We aren’t going to change anything, just we are going to have new dishes over here,” Melini said. “One of my chefs will come over here and I will be here for three or four months cooking.”

Ironton Mayor John Elam is a big fan of Melini’s restaurant.

“I don’t know if you would call it a labor of love but fortunately things fell into place for us,” he said.

Elam said that last October he was talking about economic development with Jay Zornes of the port authority and convinced Zornes to take a road trip to Grayson to try the food at Melini’s.

“We had a fantastic lunch,” Elam said.

After they finished eating, they introduced themselves to Melini’s wife and told her to have Venus give them a call. “I told them I thought it would be a really great match for the city of Ironton.”

“We weren’t 10 miles down the road before he called,” Zornes said.

Mayor Elam thinks Melini’s will be a great addition to Ironton.

“We need another good sit-down restaurant here,” he said, adding that he goes to places like Peddler’s Home Cooking, Toro Loco and the local pizza places. “Melini has a good menu and I think it will attract more people from Ashland and Russell to come to Ironton.”

Melini said the next restaurant he opens will be in Winchester, Ky.

“It’s not a chain, it’s just me and my family,” he said.