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Altruda’s marks 20-plus years

A West Knoxville landmark restaurant celebrated its 23rd anniversary earlier this year.

Altruda’s Italian Restaurant owner Paul Meyer said he opened the restaurant in 1988 in the Town and Country Commons along North Peters Road, and Meyer now is the only original tenant left.

“We opened Jan. 12, 1988. And when I first found the location, they had just broke ground here. Circuit City was being built, and this was just dirt.

“And I’m actually the last remaining [original] tenant,” Meyer said.

The turnover of tenants has had “more ups than downs,” he added, even through the loss of anchor Circuit City. And Meyer said the landlords of the shopping center had done a good job of filling spaces with appropriate tenants.

“We’ve built up a loyal clientele over the years, so we’ve been lucky,” he added.

Altruda’s is family-owned and operated, with Meyer and his wife and in-laws owning the restaurant and Meyer’s children working or having worked there.

Not to mention the restaurant’s authentic northern Italian menu includes dishes Meyer learned from his Italian mother, Geraldine Ida Altruda, for whom the restaurant is named.

“She came over in the 30s, when she was about 10 years old ... And all these recipes are stuff I grew up on,” Meyer said.

“I make dinners from my mom’s kitchen. That’s a real testament to how I take pride in what I do,” he added.

Meyer called Altruda’s atmosphere casual and family-friendly, mentioning the restaurant’s popular booths and the themed dining areas — the library room and fireplace room, as well as larger dining areas that can be rented to large parties.

Meyer’s secret for lasting so long in business?

First on the list is a willingness to change with the market.

“When we first opened, we didn’t have high-chairs and milk and stuff for kids and we changed that within the first year. Over the years, we’ve made changes,” Meyer said.

In a similar market change, the restaurant chefs also can make allowances for diners with dietary restrictions, such as those who wish for gluten-free options.

“We have the ingredients to make anything,” Meyer said.

Meyer also makes it a priority to be personally involved not only in the business of the restaurant but in diners’ experiences.

“I make it a point to talk to every single customer who walks in the door, really running around and trying to talk to everybody, unless it’s a Friday and we’re on a one-hour wait. Then I’m just trying to survive,” Meyer laughed.

“I work six days a week and I’ve been doing it 23 years. I’m 56 years old and I still love what I do; I’m passionate for it,” he added.

Altruda’s, 125 N. Peters Road, is open from 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Meyer said his chefs come in at 11 a.m. each day to begin preparing for the night’s meals — one reason why the restauarant doesn’t serve lunch.

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Meyer also has begun bottling Altruda’s popular salad dressing for retail sale, and hopes to bottle the restaurant’s marinara sauce as well.


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