Since 1926, when the Green family opened the Wayside Inn, there has been a restaurant at the corner of Kingston Pike and Homberg Drive. The wayside Inn was a popular place for over 25 years serving good “country cooking” as well as being a hot night spot for dancing. During this time the building was a large frame structure with the dance floor and live band area located in the back. Behind this building were several smaller buildings that we can only speculate about their use.
In 1948 the frame building burned to the ground in a fire that was never fully explained, but there were rumors that the current tenant, who was leasing from the Greens, was having some financial difficulties. When the restaurant was rebuilt, it was a smaller concrete block structure with glass brick in the two front corners and remained the Wayside Inn.
In 1955 Joe and Hazel Alberti took over the lease and began the Italian tradition at 5500 Kingston Pike. Alberti’s Italian Restaurant served up great food and authentic atmosphere for another 23 years and many Knoxvillian’s today can remember celebrating a special occasion there such as a birthday or anniversary.
In 1978 after Joe and Hazel decided to retire, Chuck Naples and Ray Ward purchased the business and changed the name to Naples which it remains today. Chuck operated the restaurant for 3 years then decided to move his family to Arkansas so the Luper family became partners with Ray Ward.
Bob Luper having 15 years in the industry with several fine well known restaurants became the operating manager and Steve Luper, a CPA with several years working for a chain of restaurants became the business manager. Harold a professor at UT and Mary, his wife (Dad and Mom) were there to lend a hand in seating people, clearing tables, and whatever else needed to be done.
After seven years in the building, the Luper family operation outgrew the space and added a 50 seat banquet room, new kitchen, bar and bathrooms, while at the same time preserving the authentic atmosphere that Knoxville had grown to love. Bob and his wife Becky bought out Mr.Ward and the remaining family members in 1998 and continue to operate the restaurant to this day.
Today, Naples Italian Restaurant is the first restaurant people think of when someone says “Let’s eat Italian tonight.”