Two ex-professors own restaurants in Watertown

Kaitlin Vantrease • Jun 27, 2017 at 5:58 PM

At two prominent restaurants in Watertown, there are two ex-professors with nearly the highest in higher education.

Katie Smith, owner of Nona Lisa Pizzeria, owns a doctorate in psychology, and Ron Hardy, owner of Lulu’s Café, lacks his dissertation from having a doctorate in history.

Nona Lisa, one of Watertown’s most famous and beloved restaurants, opened in 2011. When it first opened, Smith worked as a professor at Cumberland University. She ran Nona Lisa and taught for three years before she finally decided she wanted to devote all of her attention and energy to her restaurant.

“I always cooked like I have 12 kids, and I only have one,” Smith said.

When Smith and her husband, John, bought Nona Lisa, it was already a pizzeria. It had only 12 seats. They added eight more seats in the dining room.

Smith studied psychology and early childhood development, and then later added cognitive studies to her interests. She said she decided quickly she wasn’t cut out to be a preschool teacher. She was offered a fellowship to the second-ranked program in the country in developmental psychology.

“So I kept going,” she said with a smile.

She really loved teaching but said Nona Lisa is close to her home, and she got the opportunity to try something new that peaked her curiosity. She enjoys the fact that she still gets to teach and train some with the employees at Nona Lisa.

“Long-term, I think we want to stay right here. We really like this location; we like the gardens out back and the seating out front where everybody is right there on Main Street,” said Smith.

Lulu’s Café, a restaurant with a laid-back musical atmosphere just a couple of doors up Main Street from Nona Lisa, started about 10 years ago by Hunter Allen as a coffeehouse. Ron Hardy and his daughter, Gabrielle, took it over five years ago. They have transformed it into more of a restaurant than a coffeehouse.

Hunter started Saturday night music, and the Hardy’s visited as customers for several years. When they bought the café, it was primarily to keep the music going.

“We were smart enough to realize that music didn’t pay the bills,” said Hardy.

They greatly expanded the menu. They serve a meat and three and a variety of hamburgers such as mushroom-swiss, jalapeño and black bean burgers.

Ron received an “all but dissertation” in history from the University of Alabama, and he has a masters in economics. He taught college-level history for about 30 years at Cumberland University, Vol State, Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University.

“It takes a PhD to run a restaurant in Watertown,” he said jokingly.

Hardy said he hopes to see the restaurant grow and would like to add more dependable workers to the team.



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