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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, July 20, 2019 1:00 am

Jarring reminder of bygone days

The building hasn't been Zoli's in almost 20 years. But it had to be disconcerting for those of a certain age to see a bulldozer on the lot at 2426 Broadway this week.

Zoli's, for the uninitiated, was the restaurant of Zoltan Herman, who made his way to Fort Wayne after escaping Hungary on Christmas Eve 1956 in the wake of a Russian crackdown following a people's uprising. Herman struck out on his own after learning from some of the city's mid-'50s restaurant titans – Don Hall, Alex Azar and John Spillson (who would go on to found Cafe Johnell).

Over the decades, Zoli's menu expanded from Hungarian to include treats as diverse as pizza and pastries. His building expanded in a seemingly similar haphazard manner as more seats were needed to accommodate both regulars and curious first-time diners.

Herman died in December 2003, only months into his retirement. His four children had taken turns managing the restaurant; none wanted their father to live in a world without his life's work. In May 2004, the building was sold to an aquatics supplier who planned to lease out a portion of the space. That half became, fittingly, a pizzeria.

But, like Zoli's, that pizzeria is long gone. So its half of the building is being razed and returned to green space.