For many families, it's been a treasured tradition since 1994. Mom and Dad and the kids would pile into the car and head down to Old Town Bay St. Louis to meet up with grandfolks or cousins or just good friends. The whole clan would stuff themselves silly with delicious food at Trapani's Eatery, reveling in the restaurant's lively atmosphere. Afterwards, a twilight stroll through the historic district or along the beach made the experience unforgettable.
Like so many dreams come true, Hurricane Katrina smashed that tradition, along with the Trapani’s building and much of Bay St. Louis. Jolynne and Tony, the team who had made Trapani’s so successful, were devastated when they turned a corner just two days after the storm and saw that their restaurant had been reduced to rubble.
Fans of the eatery across the entire Gulf Coast encouraged the Trapanis to relocate and open their restaurant elsewhere, yet the Trapanis were adamant: they would someday rebuild on the Bay St. Louis beachfront.
“Someday” turned out to be almost over six years down the road. In the meantime, Trapani's Eatery reopened in March, 2006 in a new location on Hwy. 90. Locals gratefully flocked to the restaurant, eager for the signature dishes they’d missed. All the while, the Trapanis were planning a new building for their empty beachfront lot, a hurricane resistant structure built of concrete and steel. Trapani's reopened on the beachfront in early 2012, marking a major milestone in the revitalization of Old Town.
On reopening, Bay St. Louis mayor Les Fillingame said that “it’s time. The opening of the new Trapani’s signaled that we’re really making it.”
The mayor continued, “Jolynne and Tony are examples to us all. They never wavered in their faith that Bay St. Louis could not only recover, we could be better than we were before.”
“Never wavered,” are words also used by Jolynne as she remembers the decision to rebuild. “Before the storm,” she says, “Our downtown was a special niche full of locals, businesspeople and visitors. Downtown means so much to us, we wanted to be one of the catalysts to help it come back. If we don’t invest in our own community, how do we expect others to do it?”
When the beachfront restaurant opened in 2012, the entire coast celebrated right along with the Trapanis. The new restaurant is the kind of place where new traditions are born. And Jolynne remembered exactly how she felt when the first meal in the new building was served.
“The day we opened meant that we beat Katrina,” she says. “It didn’t beat us.”