Dianne Light could have leased her former Dianne’s on Devine location multiple times since she closed the well-known Columbia restaurant three years ago.
“We were approached numerous times,” said Light, who, along with chef Bill Prato, owns and operates another landmark Columbia eatery in DiPrato’s Delicatessen on Pickens Street. “Things just weren’t right and I was hesitant about what some of them wanted to do to the interior and just whether or not they could do a good job. I wanted whatever went in there to be successful.”
She believes she has found the right person: Russell Jones, who plans to open the restaurant Tallulah.
“I knew when I met Russell and talked with him that he was incredibly talented and that he and his wife would do a wonderful job,” Light said.
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A Columbia native and Dreher High School graduate, Jones has lived in Washington for the past 12 years, where he attended French culinary school L’Academie De Cuisine and worked as a chef at Le Paradou, Restaurant Eve and, most recently, the high-end bar and restaurant Jack Rose Dining Saloon.
While Jones plans to incorporate French cooking techniques, Tallulah will not be a classic French restaurant, he said.
“What we’ll be doing is taking that French technique and using it in a very modern American cuisine with local seasonal ingredients and a menu that changes frequently,” said Jones, who began his stint in the culinary world working at Rosewood Market while attending the University of South Carolina.
Dishes will include items such as grouper with house-made linguine and parsley and roasted cauliflower with coriander and pickled garlic.
In Washington, Jones gets produce from a few select farms.
“I really let what’s coming from the farms direct the course of the menu,” he said. “It’s going to be more driven by what’s available ... so in the summer you’ll see an abundance of fresh vegetables; in the winter you’re going to see more root vegetables; in the springtime you’ll see a bunch of asparagus, grilled mushrooms, that type of thing.”
Jones began renovations to the former Dianne’s interior last week.
“We’re leveling off the entire space inside, removing the raised-up bar that used to be in the center and the curved wall to open it up more and lighten it up with some lighter colors,” Jones said.
Jones plans to have a formal dining space for service-driven, reservation dining along with “a little more upscale casual lounge and bar with first-come, first-serve service.”
Jones originally planned to name the restaurant Lula’s in honor of his grandmother. However, after hearing about the imminent opening of Lula Drake wine parlour downtown, he named the restaurant after his great-great-grandmother.
Tallulah is expected to open in November.
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