An article I wrote for iluvlocalplaces.com
Mark Dirnberger of the Bella Italia is embarking on a journey to resuscitate a Cape Girardeau icon. The Royal N’Orleans standing at 300 Broadway was erected in 1868. During its time it has housed many things, first being a German Social club, then an Opera House and Masonic Lodge, a Newspaper office and even a Chinese laundry. Over the years the building has become a grand restaurant.
If you have never been inside the building there is only one word that can be used to describe it: stunning. It is the kind of intense architecture and decor that you can’t soak in during one visit. There are archways, ornate rails, lamp posts, chandeliers and seating that is sectioned off for an intimate feel. It is easy to see why the N’Orleans was the place to be in its heyday.
Because of the deep and rich history of the building Mark decided that rather than try to recreate a “perfect past” he would rather honor a new tradition. It would be hard to do justice to such an ingrained vision as the Royal N’Orleans. Mark hopes that in creating a new vision it will become the next chapter for the building and a chapter in his family history as well.
He plans to have the building open in the early spring as an upscale, but casual Irish restaurant. It will be called Katie O’ Ferrell’s Publick House. The name is in honor of his Irish ancestry on his mother’s side as family is important to Mark. He relies on them to help with the creative and management process. While he was working on the concept they considered other locations. He said, “We looked at several locations. None fit the size or atmosphere needed to pull off the concept. This building and interior fit it perfectly.”
Mark knows that some people may be disappointed with the changes. He hopes that people will realize the significance of bringing the building to life and what opening a new venue in the downtown market place will do for the community. When asked what the new venture meant to him he said, “I’m flattered and proud to be in the building – to carry on the legacy of the building. It has so much history and nostalgia. I feel some pressure to keep the legacy alive but people have been very kind and thankful”.
Look for the Dirnberger crew to begin making minor improvements to the interior and exterior very soon. They plan to preserve the original architecture but add a few distinctly Irish twists such as snugs and traditional music. Katie O’ Ferrell’s Public House will stand as a warm and welcoming location for all to enjoy.