Long-awaited ribbon cutting happens for Little Dutch

The Little Dutch Restaurant on South Cumberland Street hosted a ribbon cutting by the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday. Pictured from left: Tony Miksa, Kristina Kurtz, Cynthia Ewing, Shauna Greene, Lea Anna Ramsey, Delores Cole, Brenda Eagle, Adrienna Norton, Steve Amos, Little Dutch Owner Jamie Lambert, Debbie A’Hearn, Tonya Hall, Cookie Larkin, Mary Katheryn Coffman, Kimberly Reese, Greg Harrell and Janet Miller.

A year after a new owner purchased the Little Dutch Restaurant in Morristown, the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting in front of the 81-year-old business on South Cumberland Street Thursday.

Jamie Lambert, former owner of Pizza Inn in Morristown and a 30-year veteran of the restaurant business, purchased the Little Dutch from George and Nina Angelos a year ago this month. George and Tommy Angelos purchased the Little Dutch in 1973.

“If you’ve been in Morristown for a long time and you look for a place to celebrate to enjoy a good meal, you think of the Little Dutch,” Steve Amos of the Morristown Area Chamber said. “Jamie’s been around a long time and a lot of us have had that Pizza Inn experience. We’re so excited that he is now the owner and proprietor of the Little Dutch.”

“I do want to say that I’m excited to be a part of the Little Dutch,” Lambert said. “I had heard about it for years, but truthfully before I bought the place, I had eaten here one time in my life. To be part of something that has the heritage that goes back for decades is humbling for me to be a part of it. I don’t feel worthy to be here and be a part of this, but here I am. I’m going ahead and take it.”

Lambert said that the restaurant under his guidance is embracing its heritage.

“We’re really doing a lot to try to call attention to what we’ve been through to get us to this point,” he said. “We’re in our 81st year here, excited to be part of it. As George Angelos says ‘We’re going for 180.’

Last week, Lambert and the Angelos’ were on hand to honor long-time server Maggie Whitehead, naming the room she worked for most of her 40 years of service, the “Maggie Whitehead Room.”

Although Maggie had retired before he purchased the Little Dutch, Lambert wanted to honor her and the restaurant’s heritage.

“It’s something I wanted to do to recognize her years of service to the Little Dutch and Morristown,” he said. “It’s important to embrace our heritage and history. We still value what got us to this point. The years that Maggie gave was essential to the Little Dutch.”

In an October, 2019 article in the Citizen Tribune, the history of the Little Dutch was profiled.

The origins of the Italian-Greek eatery with the Dutch name, needless to say, are intriguing.

The restaurant has actually never served Dutch food. Founded by an energetic Italian, Frank Lorino and his wife, Mattie, in 1939. The café was taken over by George and his brother, Tommy, both natives of Greece, in 1973.

The building was christened Little Dutch in part, because the Lorinos met at an East Tennessee drive-in that in later conversations Mattie referred to as the Dutch; and in part, because Frank could spot a good bargain.

He traded a lifetime of free meals for a cooking stove from successful local businessman, Jim Burke, and when it came to the sign on the front of the building, Frank made another deal. In a stroke of genius, Lorino bought a leftover sign that has the famous windmill logo.

Lambert served club sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches and fruit, along with drinks after the ribbon cutting.