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The Hawk Eye Newspaper

Fourth Street restaurants flourish

Jeff Abell
PUBLICATION: Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA)

SECTION: Progress DATE: March 7, 2010

Page: 4A

Newer downtown eateries bring flavorful competition.
In downtown Burlington, hungry patrons don’t have far to travel to sample French and Italian culinary masterpieces.
In recent years, North Fourth Street has become home to two distinct restaurants — Bistro 322 and La Tavola Italian Eatery — that specialize in tantalizing cuisine and unique dining experiences.
Separated by two buildings, the restaurants are the start of what owners believe will be a restaurant renaissance in downtown Burlington.
“I would like to see this street turn into a restaurant district. I would like entrepreneurs to take a look at my business or others’ businesses and realize that the downtown has a lot to offer,” said Sean Foehring, owner of Bistro 322.
Carlo Falcone, co-owner of La Tavola, agreed, adding: “We’re not worried about competition. I’m more worried about the city removing snow and ice from the streets so our customers don’t fall. Only good things will happen to us if more restaurants open around us.”
La Tavola — which in Italian means “The Table” — opened in 2007 to rave reviews and large crowds.
Crowds continue to flock to the family establishment, which offers, among other taste-tempting concoctions, authentic veal parmigiana, linguine with clam sauce and calzones.
When it comes to authentic Italian cuisine, Burlington transplants Falcone and his wife Cheryl know their business.
Falcone’s love of cooking stems from a childhood in Sicily full of good food and fond memories. He honed his skills in the kitchen during a one-year stint in the Italian army at age 19.
In the late 1980s, he relocated to New Jersey where he and his brother owned three pizza restaurants.
After marrying in 1994, the couple received an offer from Cheryl’s sister, Cathy Gordon, to open up a restaurant at the building she owned at 316 N. Fourth St.
The rest is culinary history.
“We stay here because Burlington feels like home to us,” Falcone said. “We’re very happy with our business. Our customers are happy. We’re happy; what more can you ask for?”
At Bistro 322, Foehring surveyed his empty restaurant and smiled. Earlier, the place had been packed with customers taking advantage of his current lunch special.
It’s with a certain sense of pride that Foehring says his heart belongs to Burlington. A native, Foehring made his name in the food and beverage business in the neon jungle of Las Vegas.
As time went on, Foehring, who also co-owned a restaurant in Oklahoma, was ready to return to his hometown.
The idea of opening a restaurant in Burlington wasn’t on his agenda. However, while working at The Drake, he stumbled upon a For Rent sign at the 322 N. Fourth St. building.
“It just clicked. I knew I was missing the dining atmosphere I found in Las Vegas. For me, French cooking is comfort food. It’s not so different than the comfort food I remember growing up in Burlington,” he said.
Since opening last year, Foehring has combined two loves, French cuisine and wine, into a thriving business.
He credits La Tavola, along with Martini’s Grille and Mister Moto’s Cafe, for providing successful business models.
Martini’s, situated on the northern-most corner of Fourth Street, has been offering an eclectic mix of food and cocktails since locating in RiverPark Place in 2004.
On the south end of Fourth Street, Mister Moto’s opened in 2006 serving up exotic coffee and bistro food to downtown visitors. The business reopened last year as Moto’s Public House.
“Those restaurants have proven that the downtown is a perfect place to locate. When people look at the downtown, we want them to see the potential,” Foehring said.
“What all of us would like to see is more restaurants on Fourth Street and elsewhere in the downtown. For me, the hope is to have a flourishing and growing downtown.”