John Varanese: A Unique Culinary Talent on the Louisville Restaurant Scene - Louisville Article

John Varanese: A Unique Culinary Talent on the Louisville Restaurant Scene

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John Varanese: A Unique Culinary Talent on the Louisville Restaurant Scene

Apr 11, 2018

John Varanese relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, from Charleston, South Carolina, in 1998 when he was hired by local favorite Azalea to be the Executive Chef. By 2008, he was opening his namesake restaurant Varanese on historic Frankfort Avenue. He is currently one of the area’s premier chefs, and his restaurants have become dining destinations that have drawn huge crowds each year.

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John had set his sights on a riverside dining experience on the Ohio River in Louisville as far back as 2004. It took until 2016 for those plans to come to fruition, as River House Restaurant and Raw Bar and Levee at the River House.

Starting out washing dishes for a Mom & Pop restaurant at the age of 13, John began cooking shortly after he was hired, and by age 15 he was running the kitchen. By 16, he knew he wanted to own his own restaurant and he soon enrolled at Johnson & Wales University South Carolina. John has a genuine passion for cooking and considers the culinary landscape his playground.

“I love playing with new and different ingredients to create something new and seeing how much customers enjoy my creations,” he recently shared.

He also has a passion for featuring locally sourced products and he also highlights the use of bourbon in his menus and restaurant décor. John's first restaurant, Varanese, features menu items such as the crabstuffed avocado, pulled pork and sweet potato biscuit, bourbon barrel smoked pork chop, caramelized orange bourbon salmon and bread pudding. An extensive wine and bourbon list and creative cocktails are offered as the perfect compliment to any menu choice.

Click Here to View the Varanese Louisville Menu!

River House Restaurant & Raw Bar features regional cuisine with Southern flair and an emphasis on fresh seafood and a raw bar. Menu highlights include grilled oysters, a grilled romaine salad, crispy Grouper cheeks and a Maker’s Mark bourbon barrel smoked salmon. Each meal is preceded by a complimentary cast iron skillet
cornbread with whipped butter. The River House also features a two tier outdoor patio overlooking the Ohio River and a stunning floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking the back patio and riverfront if you prefer to dine indoors.

The Levee at the River House, an indoor and outdoor bar located next door, in the same building, boasts the same expansive views and patios on the river. The menu offers small plates, including tacos, sliders, oysters and
flatbreads. Levee also features live entertainment five nights a week from both local bands and nationally touring acts.

Of course, both the River House and Levee also feature extensive wine and bourbon lists and very relaxed atmosphere to go along with either.

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River House was also voted “Best New Restaurant in Louisville” by Louisville Magazine readers and “Best New Restaurant” by LEO Weekly readers in 2016. Along with several other “Best Of” awards over the years, Varanese was voted “Best Restaurant in Clifton/ Crescent Hill” by Louisville Magazine readers in 2017.

John Varanese takes pride in setting and exceeding high standards at all of his restaurants and he invites you to visit during your trip to Louisville. You’re guaranteed a great meal and a great time too!

For more information about John Varanese, River House Restaurant & Raw Bar or The Levee at the River House, please visit:, and 

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