'The Wall' will live on at new Italian House

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
— For Mark Kiskunas and his family, the Italian House Restaurant is the first and last stop of any visit to Janesville.

“My wife just knows that’s the way it’s going to be,” said Kiskunas, who grabs a Gondola sandwich on his arrival and loaves of bread on his departure.

Those culinary stops don’t happen often enough for Kiskunas, a 1992 Craig High School graduate who is now a bank executive in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

But Kiskunas’ presence is part of the daily routine at Italian House.

He was the first of hundreds of Craig students to sign his name to an interior brick wall in the restaurant, which owner Edmund Halabi announced last week is moving to the neighboring Hardees property at Randall Avenue and East Racine Street.

Actually, Kiskunas was a Craig grad when he signed the wall about seven years ago during a trip home. He ate there routinely as a Craig student and every chance thereafter.

Halabi remembers the start of the wall-signing tradition as if it were yesterday.

“Mark came in one morning and said he was going back to South Carolina,” Halabi said. “He wanted to know if I could make him a Gondola, and I said sure.

“He said he’d been eating here for so long that he must have at least paid for my roof. So he asked if he could sign the wall. He did, and it’s taken off from there among the die-hard fans, the kids who eat here every day.”

Halabi admits that his plans to move his popular Italian restaurant didn’t include “The Wall.”

But they do now, thanks to an outpouring of interest from customers.

Halabi told The Janesville Gazette last week of his plans to buy the vacant Hardees property. He will remodel for former fast-food restaurant and open later this summer.

The online version of the story posted at www.gazettextra.com triggered waves of support for Halabi and his restaurant. It also prompted questions about the future of the brick wall inside the store that students from neighboring Craig have signed for years.

“I didn’t have any plans for the wall at all,” Halabi said. “But it has obviously created some sort of huge emotional attachment.

“We’re working on it now.”

Halabi said hundreds of students have taken Kiskunas’ lead and signed their names to the panel-board wall.

Halabi said he’s working with his architect to see if the panels can be incorporated into the new restaurant’s ceiling.

He’s got other ideas, too, and new ones are coming in from customers.

While nothing’s set in mortar, it appears likely that “The Wall” will have a presence at the new Italian House, he said.

And that pleases its original signer, who said it’s an honor to be part of “The Wall.”

“I just wish I could get him to open a restaurant in South Carolina,” Kiskunas said.

Last updated: 9:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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