The owner of Rizzo's French Dip in Ballard pulled a little girl from a three-car wreck last Thursday night, making him both a hero of sandwiches and a regular hero. Here's the full story, including this priceless quote:
"At first, I got scared. I’m thinking the cars are going to catch on fire, and it’s going to blow up and I’m going to blow up in it. But I just said, ‘I’m not going to leave that little girl in there. It ain’t happening.’ You know what I mean?
We noticed, however, that the it-ain't-happening hero—"owner of local restaurant Rizzo's French Dip"—was named as Kenny Johnson. The owners of Rizzo's, as far as we know, are Frank and Tony Rizzo. Thadius Van Landingham III went to investigate on Friday. What follows is the transcript of his discussion with the young men at the counter.
Van Landingham III: So, does Frank [Rizzo] still own this place?
Young Men of Rizzo’s: Yeah, sure.
Van Landingham III: So, who's Kenny Johnson?
Young Men of Rizzo’s: Who?
Van Landingham III: Kenny Johnson.
Young Men of Rizzo’s: Dunno.
Van Landingham III: Who pulled the girl from the flaming car?
Young Men of Rizzo’s: That was Frank!
Van Landingham III: The news reports said it was someone named Kenny Johnson.
Young Men of Rizzo’s: Well, yeah, Frank has a bunch of names.
Van Landingham III: How's business?
Young Men of Rizzo’s: Great today, probably because of the press. The whole freakin’ fire department came in today.
Van Landingham III: What's with the sunglasses? [Both young men were wearing sunglasses.]
Young Men of Rizzo’s: [laughter] It's sunglasses day. If you come in and are wearing sunglasses, not on the top of your head or anything but on your eyes, and don't take them off when you come inside, then we'll give you a free something.
Van Landingham III: A free what?
Young Men of Rizzo’s: I don't know. A soda or something.
Van Landingham III reports that the sandwiches—only French dips, and the only choice you're allowed to make is "Cheese or No Cheese"—are still really, really good.
Reached by phone, Frank Rizzo confirmed that the amazing rescue was "100 percent me." "I amazed myself on that!" he said. The little girl had a broken arm, but she's otherwise fine, Rizzo said, "Thank god." (Of Van Landingham III's review of Rizzo's French Dip, Rizzo said, "That was the best article ever in the world. You be sure to tell him that article made my heart happy.")
Meanwhile, while ballardnewstribune.com recently reported that Rizzo's is for sale, it's not so, Rizzo says. He is moving back to L.A., but he's decided not to sell the place; he's going to give his employees a chance to run it.
Asked about the whole Kenny Johnson thing, Rizzo said simply, "I'm a felon." Johnson is his legal name.
"My kid said, 'Dad, you’re a superhero—enjoy it,'" Rizzo said.