Long-Time Greenwood Establishment to Begin New Chapter
By Becky Gillette
Lusco’s in Greenwood is one of the oldest restaurants in Mississippi continuously owned and operated by the same family. Lusco’s has been around in Greenwood for more than 100 years, starting out as a grocery store that served food in 1921 before moving to 722 Carrollton Avenue in 1933 and turning into a restaurant.
Originally from the Sicilian region of Italy, the Lusco family was turned away from Ellis Island and Savannah before being allowed to settle in New Orleans in the 1890s. The family moved from New Orleans to Greenwood because it was a new market and they were attracted to the Delta. Lusco’s quickly became popular for its unique blend of Italian cuisine with Creole cooking.
Lusco’s has been owned and operated for nearly a half century by Andy and Karen Pinkston, the fourth generation of the family running the restaurant, with many of their children and grandchildren involved with the day-to-day operations.
Now Lusco’s is on the move again. After being closed for a year, it recently reopened in its Greenwood location for a passing of the torch before the business will be moved to a new building at Plein Air in Taylor located six miles from Oxford.
One thing that will remain the same is the reliance on family recipes handed down through the generations that have been a hit with patrons of Lusco’s. After many years working alongside his grandparents at Lusco’s, Andy and Karen’s grandson, Thomas Long, will be the sixth-generation member of his family to take over the kitchen. He will own and operate Lusco’s together with his father, Rhyine Long, and great uncle, John Ramsey Miller. Thomas started helping in different positions at the restaurant starting at sixteen and was soon working in the kitchen with his grandfather.
The Greenwood location was in a building that needed extensive remodeling. Miller said they either had to put the business in a new building or retire. The previous owners have been working at Lusco’s for forty-seven years.
“I am not sure they have ever even gotten to take a real vacation,” says Miller. “Thomas wanted to continue it, and so I decided to go in with him and his father as a business partner. We’re open in Greenwood Thursday and Friday nights just to restructure our systems and say goodbye to Greenwood.”
Dining at Lusco’s in Greenwood is by reservation only by texting 662-832-8203. People can also book private parties in advance.
“Thomas will continue the unique blend of Italian and Creole cuisine that has defined Lusco’s and made it a destination dining tradition,” says Miller. “Lusco’s is particularly well known for its steaks, pompano and seafood dishes. Many of these are served with the distinctive Lusco’s hot or mild sauces or fish sauce that have kept guests coming back for more generation after generation. Thomas knows the recipes and he is a great cook.”
Miller says guests have come to relish not only the extraordinary cuisine, but the Lusco’s experience as well–a focus on enjoying the time spent with good company in a laid-back atmosphere. Patrons are never made to feel like they need to go to turn a table, and are welcome to enjoy their dining experience until they are ready to depart.
“The decision to move the restaurant was a difficult one for Thomas, but the renovations needed to the current location were prohibitive,” says Miller. “After looking at many locations across north Mississippi, Thomas, Rhyine, and I felt that Plein Air’s blend of old and new and their focus on community made it the ideal location.”
Having the location be one of very few changes has been a big focus for the team. The Longs plan on carefully removing all the interior and exterior elements of the restaurant location in Greenwood. When constructed in Taylor, not only will the exterior of the building mirror the one at 722 Carrollton Ave., it will also include the reclaimed elements the have given Lusco’s its unique ambiance. The famous curtained booths, an element in the Greenwood location that dates back to prohibition times, will be a feature in the new location. The front room store area, a favorite spot for diners to snap photos with the Lusco’s sign, will be rebuilt as well. Making its departure sooner will be the historic exterior signage, which is going to be professionally restored before arriving at its new home in Taylor.
Lusco’s soft openings in Plein Air are slated for summer 2024, with full capacity opening planned for late summer/early fall.
Plein Air is a traditional neighborhood development located on Main Street in Taylor. Founded in 2006, when fully built out Plein Air will have upwards of 200 homes, plus a seven-acre commercial district featuring restaurants, retail, professional offices and loft spaces.
Campbell McCool, founder and developer of Plein Air, said they are thrilled about welcoming an iconic brand and restaurant like Lusco’s. “Of course, everyone knows the name Lusco’s, and we were honored that they would choose to locate their new restaurant in our neighborhood,” says McCool.
Plein Air is currently about half built out with 110 homes in the development that has been designed for 200 homes. The commercial district includes Lost Dog Coffee, Oxford Psychological, Mississippi Eye Care, Offbeat in General, which is a grocery store and deli, Grit Restaurant and the Mill at Plein Air events venue. A wedding chapel, artist studios and several new businesses are about to break ground.
“Our long-term plan for Plein Air is to have a town square very similar to the one in Oxford,” says McCool. “Lusco’s is a fabulous next step for us. We are adding about two new businesses a year on our town square. We are about to build a boutique hotel coming in 2024. That will be another amenity that will make what we have to offer all the more attractive.”
In the past two decades Taylor has blossomed into somewhat of a bedroom community of Oxford bustling with artists, young professionals, university professors and active retirees.