Omnivore - Crime memory of the week

The weird case of Jilly’s on Roswell Road

Image I was looking through the December 1982 Google archives last night and came upon a restaurant story I’d all but forgotten. It was account of the bizarre kidnapping of the principal owner of the old Jilly’s on Roswell Rd.

In the AP article, Carl Louis Coppola said he’d been detained three weeks in a warehouse and his condominium, bound in chains, by a business associate and two others. But he told police (in all seriousness) that the kidnappers had other means of keeping him immobilized besides the chains:

“They kept me smoking grass and eating Quaaludes to keep me mellow so I couldn’t get away.”

That made me laugh because Jilly’s was exactly the kind of place friends and I used to visit while under the influence. The specialty was delicious baby back ribs and the ambiance was utterly surreal, with, as I recall, alcoves that featured different decors. I remember that Larry Ashmead, the teetotaling executive editor of Harper and Row, said that the decor would alter your mind without drugs.

Further, it turned out that the restaurant’s principals, who were franchising it, were later investigated for trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. Over the next decade and several apparently execution-style murders, the feds took Coppola to court and won a conviction. (This is an abbreviated summary of a pretty complicated story.)

It needs to be said that Coppola moved to Atlanta with the plan of establishing Jilly’s as a legitimate franchise operation. That means the other restaurants in the chain had no part in the federal investigation.

Another sweet memory of Atlanta’s restaurant past. It was certainly not the first Atlanta restaurant or club to be connected with organized crime.