I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it….Marsh Shapiro is putting the Nitty Gritty up for sale. He wants to sell the famous restaurant to his son-in-law, but they’ve apparently had trouble putting the financing together. The home of the world-famous Gritty Burger up for sale - stunning!
Marsh and his wife Susan have been friends of mine for years. I can’t begin to count how many birthdays my wife and kids and I have marked at his fine establishment downtown, or the great lunches we’ve enjoyed at the Middleton restaurant.
Everybody who’s anybody has been to the Gritty. One time my wife and I were there for somebody’s retirement party, and ran into former UW Athletic Director Pat Richter. We share the same hip replacement surgeon - Dr. John Rogerson -and talked about what a great job Dr. Rogerson did for both of us.
Both my kids, when they graduated from LaFollette High and headed off to the UW, were forced to undergo my indoctrination to The University Of Wisconsin - Madison, and that meant three things: assigned reading of Tom Bates’ book “Rads”; a tour of the campus with my narration about what the REAL campus landmarks are; and a mid-day tour stop for lunch at the Gritty.
Marsh would stop by the table and give exquisite lectures to my kids about the history of the joint, drop the names of a bunch of NFL and NHL stars who hung out at the Gritty during their Badger years, and then would deliver his incomparable spiel about Sterling Hall.
He’d point to a certain booth in the restaurant and say “right there…that booth…in 1970...is where the Armstrong Brothers, Leo Burt, and David Fine planned the bombing. Your dad has told you about Sterling Hall, hasn’t he?” My son solemnly nodded in the affirmative during his indoctrination, and my daughter did the same the next year.
It’s almost 40 years since the blast heard round the world, which ended young researcher Bob Fassnacht’s life and heralded a new attitude about our nation’s involvement in that southeast Asian war.
But, time marches on. I can’t believe Marsh is 70, and I’m 60. As young men, we would never have trusted anyone our age now!
Whatever’s ahead for Marsh and Susan, I wish them the best. My family will continue to patronize the place, but we’ll miss their tremendous hospitality. And I’ll always wonder what really IS in that famous Gritty Sauce……