Few restaurants can claim they started with a raid. However, back in 1945, a young entrepreneur named Vince Distefano was running a card game called Georgia Skin out of a leased building on Florida Boulevard. The men played for horses and Vince's wife, Stephanie, made good tips cooking for the crowd. After a surprise morning visit from a local sheriff, the entire inhabitants, including the Distefanos were hauled off to jail. The sheriff, not above the occasional "unofficial" visit the Distefano establishment, offered some sage advice: Get out of town - at least outside the city limits. So the family bought a wooded seven-acre fishing camp on Airline Highway from the Catholic Church and built a new place beyond the long arm of the law. As the games' participants grew and the cars parked out front increased, travelers frequently mistook the building for a restaurant. Eventually, the Distefanos decided they might as well feed all those hungry motorists and The Village was born.
The business grew and grew and the food got better and better. Until The Village, New Orleans was the region's primary option for sophisticated dining, but Vince set out to change that. He reconnoitered top restaurants in the biggest cities for ideas. In 1964, he imported from Italy a Genovese chef named Goffredo Fraccaro, who brought new pastas, veal and fish dishes and a 10-layer rum cake - all of which really got Baton Rouge talking. At night, crystal and sterling silver service were standard and the gentlemen always wore jackets. In its heyday, The Village pioneered fine dining in Baton Rouge, counted movie stars among it's customers and enjoyed status as one of the city's hottest tickets.
Vince died in 1965, and Stephanie, who had attained near mythological status as "Miss Fanny," took over day-to-day operations. The years eventually caught up with the restaurant that opened in 1947. It closed in 1992 when Miss Fanny retired, dying nine years later. Judy Distefano, who in 1968 married Vince and Stephanie's only son, Joey, briefly reopened the restaurant as another Jack's Grill location before accepting an offer for the property from a real estate firm representing Academy Sports.
For the owners of these two establishments, we are honored to carry on the tradition of good times and good food that was started in the Distefano family kitchen back in 1945. We are also blessed to have worked with Joey for a short time and his spirit still lives on through every meal we serve. There is not a day that goes by that you don't hear a story about the original restaurant, from first dates and marriage proposals to graduation celebrations and prom nights. As for us, we hope people will be telling the same heartwarming Little Village stories to future generations long after our time has passed.