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   December 2004


Michael Haimowitz (ex-Morells in NYC) has become executive chef at Bambara restaurant, saying he was attracted to the city’s people, scene, and seafood. Dishes like house-cured gravlax—a citrus salmon tartare with lemon confit and grapefruit dust—ought to help him fit right in.| Neil Egan bought The Mexican restaurant and bar in Lincoln Park; he pitched the menu, tossed the name, and redid the interior, but kept the talented chef. Now Javier Portillo is turning out eclectic American eats at the new Gracie’s.


A fracas at Le Francais has made headlines. After reopening the landmark restaurant to critical acclaim last year, brothers Michael and Ted Lachowicz have resigned as part of an ongoing dispute with their financial backer. Chef Michael had trained under the original owner Jean Banchet, and both he and Ted (who is pursuing sommelier certification) are working on their next restaurant, which will also be French and in Chicago | Debbie Sharpe rocks, first as a caterer to globe-trotting acts like Paul McCartney and now at her Bucktown “deli” called The Goddess and the Grocer. Sharpe (formerly of Feast and Cru) is wooing fans with sandwiches like the Greek goddess wrap, filled with spinach, kalamata olives, grilled halloumi cheese, and oregano dressing | Michael Taus (Zealous, in North River) and business partner Nader Salti have opened Saltaus, a moderately priced lounge for night owls on West Randolf | Women with sweet dreams: Pastry chef Mindy Segal, who left mk in August, plans to open Hot Chocolate in Bucktown this January. The informal “urban cafe” will feature sandwiches, salads, soups, a few entrées, a cheese plate and—naturally—dessert. Meanwhile, Stephanie Samuels (ex-pastry chef for Foodstuffs and Metropolis Cafe) has opened Angel Food Bakery on the Northwest Side. For now, she’s focusing on custom cakes, pastries, cookies, focaccia, and coffee, but eventually plans to serve lunch | Molive in the Whitehall Hotel has closed, and reopened as Fornello Mei, an Italian-Chinese concept. Menu items by chef Joe Rosetti (Mrs. Park’s Tavern, Smith & Wollensky, Gioco) include Peking duck pizzas from a wood-burning oven and Asian noodles with Italian toppings | Chef Michael Schrader has left Nine in Chicago and has headed west to open a new Nine in Palm Springs. He has been replaced by former sous-chef Jesse Fultineer | Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has closed Papagus Greek Taverna in the Embassy Suites Hotel, and plans to quickly reopen the space as an Italian restaurant with an “inverse pyramid” menu: big-sized antipasti, smaller pasta dishes, even smaller entrées, and petite desserts. Helping develop the yet-to-be-named concept are Rick Tramonto (Tru) and David DiGregorio, one of the original chefs at Leye’s Maggiano’s Little Italy | Neil Egan bought The Mexican restaurant and bar in Lincoln Park; he pitched the menu, tossed the name, and redid the interior, but kept the talented chef. Now Javier Portillo is turning out eclectic American eats at the new Gracie’s.


Orange County restaurateurs Tim and Liza Goodell (Domaine Restaurants: Aubergine, Troquet, Red Pearl Kitchen, and The Lodge) have crossed the “orange curtain” to open their first Los Angeles operation, Meson G, on the former Citrus site in Hollywood. Chef de cuisine Eric Greenspan (ex-Patina) offers an unusual Mediterranean menu with plates of vegetables, fish, and meats to share. Look for salt cod gnocchi with mushroom consommé, poached quail eggs, and pickled peppers. The deep wine list was created by master sommelier Richard Betts, wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen | The Hollywood renaissance is genuine: husband and wife David Lentz (ex-Opaline) and Suzanne Goin (Lucques and AOC) have debuted The Hungry Cat in the Sunset + Vine development. A signature raw bar anchors the American regional seafood concept, where Lentz runs the kitchen. Caroline Styne (Goin’s partner and wine director in Lucques and AOC) created the wine list, with lots of limited-production examples available by the glass | In other Sunset + Vine news, the legendary C.C. Brown’s of Hollywood Ice Cream Parlor, home of Clarence Clifton Brown’s original hot fudge sundae, created in 1906, has re-opened after eight years | L’Orangerie proprietor Gerard Ferry went to France to recruit new chef Christophe Bellanca (most recently at Michelin two-star restaurant Pic in Valence, France. Jean-Claude Mons remains as chef de cuisine. Bellanca has brought his love of fresh, local vegetables | In 2003 Christian Shaffer successfully brought comfortable fine dining with a neighborhood restaurant feel to Playa del Rey with Chloe. Now he’s doubling down the coast with Avenue in Manhattan Beach. Mike Wilson (ex-5 Dudley in Venice) is the chef with an initial assist in the kitchen from executive chef Shaffer. As at Chloe, the menu of regional American cuisine changes monthly | When George’s Greek Café Restaurant & Market opened on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach six years ago it was an instant hit with the locals, including the area’s high-profile City Hall politicos. Initially the taverna was a father-mother-son operation: personable George Loizides worked the front, Rodou made all the labor-intensive Greek pastries daily from scratch, and Demitri cooked from his mother’s recipes. Soon daughter Nicky joined the festivities. Now the family has opened George’s Greek Cafe, in downtown Los Angeles on South Figueroa Street | Executive chef Agostino Sciandri (Ago) has returned to the part of town that originally put him on the map in the early 1990s with the new Sor Tino Ristorante in Brentwood. Sciandri was the opening executive chef of nearby Toscana, and Sor Tino sits on the site of the former Rosti, which Sciandri also started. The place offers trattoria-style Tuscan fare and is more of a neighborhood hang than Ago | Executive chef Scott Holzinger (from Kuleto’s in San Francisco) is now on the scene at Temecula Creek Inn, a 300-acre golf resort in wine country Temecula. He oversees all of the property’s dining venues, including the destination Temet Grill, which serves vineyard cuisine with a Mediterranean influence | Innovative Dining Group’s Balboa on Sunset has been renamed BOA Steakhouse. In addition to the original Sunset Strip location, this growing collection of premium steakhouses now includes restaurants in Las Vegas and in Santa Monica. Executive corporate chef Josh Thomsen (ex-The Lodge at Pebble Beach) reigns over this prime empire | After three years at the historic Saddle Peak Lodge in Malibu Canyon, chef Warren Schwartz has surfed down the coast to the Whist Restaurant at The Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. Schwartz’s former sous-chef, Mark Murillo (ex-Café Pinot) has been promoted to chef de cuisine back at the Saddle Peak Lodge | Arrivederci Alto Palato. This trend-setting trattoria, opened in 1994 by the late and revered Mauro Vincenti (Rex il Ristorante) and Danilo Terribili, has closed. Terribili continues with his growing assemblage of Spark Woodfire Cooking establishments in Los Angeles and Orange counties.


Try over 300 wines, meet winemakers, and learn about the wine regions of Australia at the 7th Annual Australia Day Harvest Festival on Thursday, January 27 at Gotham Hall, 1356 Broadway at 36th Street, New York, NY. Brought to you by the Australian Wine Bureau. Call 212-351-6585 or email for more information. | Rocco DiSpirito has been named the permanent host of Food Talk, the daily radio segment aired on 710 AM WOR radio station and made famous by Arthur Schwartz. Since Schwartz’s recent resignation, the segment had been hosted by a variety of guests. At the same time, DiSpirito’s run at Rocco’s on 22nd Street has ended—the restaurant has closed—and his Union Pacific is slated to close at the end of this month. Laurent Tourondel is cooking at the latter until after the holidays when he’ll transform it into a second BLT steak | Erik Blauberg, for eight years the chef at the “21” Club, has departed. His interim replacement is chef de cuisine John Greeley | The Livanos family, owners of Oceana and Molyvos in the city, as well as a string of upscale family restaurants outside its borders, are putting the finishing touches on its latest venture. Abboccato is an upscale Italian eatery in the newly refurbished Blakely Hotel (formerly The Gorham) in Midtown. Jake Addeo, former sous-chef at Esca, is executive chef | Rick Laakkonen, who garnered acclaim for his refined cooking at the now-shuttered Ilo Restaurant, has been named the chef at Tao in Midtown. Laakkonen is working with executive chef Sam Hazan to revamp the menu. Although the three-story Asian emporium is dominated by a dramatic 30-foot Buddha sculpture, we’re confident Laakkonen’s cooking will not be overshadowed | Le Bernardin has a new resident sweet tooth—pastry chef Michael Laiskonis, who relocated from outside Detroit. Laiskonis will be missed by his many fans at the celebrated Tribute Restaurant, but here in New York, we’re already addicted to his gold leaf caramel-cashew-chocolate tart | Michael Ayoub is already enjoying success with his newly opened Fornino in Williamsburg. In the charming, diminutive space, Ayoub specializes in thin-crust pizzas built from ingredients and herbs he grows himself. As in his previous restaurants, he hand blew the glass light fixtures and wall decorations. Ayoub earned his reputation at Cucina in Park Slope | After Ayoub left Cucina, Michael Fiore ran the kitchen for several years. Fiore is still at it, but the Park Slope institution has been transformed into Tempo, featuring a Mediterranean-inspired menu, including such standouts as duck pastilla roll; bucatini with Sicilian pistachio pesto; and braised lamb shank with harissa, butter beans, and horseradish gremolata. To die for: the warm beignets with coffee gelato and whipped cream | The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia has opened a sleek café in Midtown. Can Juan Valdez Café take on Starbucks? After sipping the dulce de leche-enriched macchiato, we’re thinking yes | If you’re willing to travel to what seems like the ends of the earth (Dumbo) for an outstanding croissant, you’re probably already making the early morning trip on Saturdays to Jacques Torres’s eponymous shop. That’s when the master chocolatier also rolls out his delicate pastries, croissants, pithiviers, and his addictive St. Tropez tart. Now the goodies will be available all week long, thanks to Torres’s partnership with Hervé Poussot. Poussot, the former pastry chef of Le Bernardin, is opening Almondine across the street, where he will offer French and American baked goods as well as organic breads. Sleep in on Saturday! | Adios. OLA, Douglas Rodriguez’s Nuevo Latino restaurant in Midtown East, has closed. Rodriguez is focusing on his other restaurant projects: Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia and Deseo at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona | The space vacated by OLA will shortly become C, for “sea.” Long Island chef Tom Schaudel, who owns CoolFish, PassionFish, and Tease, plans more of the same: high-end, expertly prepared seafood | True foodies will appreciate Anthony Mangieri’s obsessive dedication to the craft of pizza-making. He closed his original location in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, in order to devote himself to the new Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village, where his word-burning oven turns out thin, crusty masterworks made with San Marzano tomatoes, Sicilian sea salt, fresh garlic, fresh basil, Neapolitan mozzarella di bufala, and top-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Check your calendar before stopping by. The shop is only open Thursdays through Sundays | Ono is the new Japanese-themed restaurant by Jeffrey Chodorow in the trendy Hotel Gansevoort. The Meatpacking District monster, all 11,000 square feet of it, was designed by Jeffrey Beers. Chefs Scott Ubert, recently of david burke & donatella, and sushi chef Kazuhiko Hashimoto, formerly of Megu, serve three meals a day. You can watch Hashimoto in action at the 50-foot sushi bar or the other chefs in the open kitchen | Japanese cuisine seems to be the restaurant theme du jour. What was a sprawling furniture showroom in Greenwich Village is now EN Japanese Brasserie, owned by restaurateur siblings Reika and Bunkei Yo. Their family owns some two dozen restaurants in Japan. The two-story space has an airy feel and is reminiscent of a turn-of-last-century Japanese home. Chef Koji Nakano cooks such dishes as Berkshire pork belly braised in handmade miso; foie gras and poached daikon with white miso vinegar; and mochi croquettes with sautéed duck. He makes fresh tofu every 90 minutes, serving it warm or chilled with ponzu and soy-dashi seasoning | Nolita House is a small East Village eatery serving delicious comfort food and very serious cheese. The restaurant has hired Max McCalman, the cheese “sommelier” at Artisanal, to consult on its selections, which are categorized as “beginner,” “adventurous,” and more. McCalman is also consulting on wine pairings | Onera, on the Upper West Side, pays tribute to chef Michael Psilakis’s Greek ancestors, but in a fashionably up-to-date manner. Think seared sea scallops on wilted spinach with tart browned butter, caper, and cherry sauce; or crispy sweetbreads with foie gras dumplings served with crushed chicken livers and crème fraîche. As it has all over the city, crudo (raw fish) has popped up on Onera’s menu, too: Psilakis offers raw scallops with tsatsiki.


The boy next door: David Curlino, owner of Paradigm, has opened Dolce in the neighboring space. Alfonso Valentino, a Naples native, is in charge of the Italian menu | Avram Hornick is at it again with the Argentine-themed Noche, another in his stable of unique eateries and bars (Lucy’s Hat Shop, Loie, SoMa, and Tom Drinker’s Tavern) | Michael McCauley is the new head sommelier at Davio’s, the Northern Italian steakhouse | In a move away from strictly French food, Georges Perrier (Le Bec-Fin and Brasserie Perrier) has changed his suburban Wayne cafe, formerly known as Le Mas Perrier into Georges’. The less formal restaurant is taking a global approach with Kevin Sbraga as the new executive chef | Kevin O’Kane, previously of The Four Seasons, Novelty, and the Happy Rooster, is the new chef de cuisine at the Moshulu on Penn’s Landing. The executive chef is still Ralph Fernandez | Stephen Starr (Starr Restaurant Organization) has added yet more restaurants to his portfolio. The Continental Mid-Town is a reprise (not strictly a repeat) of The Continental. The decor combines retro design touches from the original with startling new features, like beaded curtains outside the rest rooms. The other Starr newcomer is the “indulgent steakhouse” Barclay Prime, located in the classic hotel on 18th Street. Try the sliced Kobe beef Philadelphia cheesesteak with foie gras, imported taleggio, heirloom tomatoes, and truffles, an haute sandwich that will set you back a whopping $100. No Cheez Whiz in sight. Chief cheesesteak maker (and executive chef) is Todd Miller (ex-Prime in Las Vegas) | Jolly’s American Bar is now serving brunch during the week.


Chef Stefano Tedeschi bought The Cross Keys Inn in Fox Chapel and turned it into Chef Steff’s Steak & Seafood. His original shop, Stefano’s Ristorante, is under new ownership | Grille on Seventh has opened as a reincarnation of the popular Seventh Street Grill, in the same downtown space | After 20 years, Christine and Jim Dauber have sold Le Pommier, on the South Side. Actually, the new owners, Jeremy Carlisle and chef Mark Collins, have been running the restaurant for some time, along with manager and dessert-maker Rich Bjork. Informally, the restaurant is now to be known as Bistro LeP. The menu remains Country French | Dingbats, Downtown in Oxford Centre, has ended its 16-year run and has been replaced by O’Leary’s, an Irish bar owned by restaurateur Frank Sacco of Piccolo Piccolo Ristorante, also Downtown | Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s nearby Falling Water, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa has added a new all-butler-service hotel called Falling Rock and a new restaurant, Aqueous. Corporate chef Jeremy Critchfield oversees operations. Executive chef Lewis Cramer (ex-Golden Trout) prepares main courses | Eric Cantine (of Church Brew Works) has entered into an agreement with Bikki Kocchar to take over Bikki in Shadyside. The menu will change from Euro-Indian to contemporary American | Opus Restaurant in the Downtown Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is now Opus Euro Bistro, with a new look and a new menu that adds tapas to its traditional entrées | The original Park House, a North Side mainstay since the 1930s, has changed hands and will change concepts. Two other, more recent Park House restaurants are also on the block | Nick & Tony’s Chophouse in the Downtown US Steel Tower has closed. The owners, Chicago-based Restaurant Development Group, plan to move the restaurant’s employees to other RDG properties across town | Storm takes its toll. Many restaurants caught in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s floods last September were forced to close and some, including the nearly 100-year-old Wright’s Seafood Restaurant, may not reopen | In memoriam: chef Russell H. Ebert, who once cooked for Frank Sinatra, has died. His career spanned more than 60 years of working in hotels and private clubs, including the prestigious Pittsburgh Golf Club.


After three years, critically acclaimed chef Laurent Gras has left the Fifth Floor in Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar to return to the East Coast, specifically New York City, where he plans to open his own restaurant. He last worked here at Peacock Alley in the Waldorf=Astoria. Watch this column for details of his new restaurant. Two-time Beard Foundation award nominee Melissa Perello of Charles Nob Hill has replaced Gras at Fifth Floor. She is joined by new sommelier Emily Wine.


Chef Shannon Galusha has left 727 Pine at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The hotel plans to close the restaurant at the end of the year | Returning to Tulio Ristorante is executive chef Walter Pisano, who left to open Trioni last winter. The ten-year-old Italian restaurant was named after Pisano’s father, Tulio | Chef-in-the-hat Thierry Rautureau has been named a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole by the Consul General of France for his contribution to the French gastronomic arts | Sapphire in the Queen Anne district has lost founding chef Lenny Rede, who passed his position on to chef Christopher Steinbock. Rede will become a wine steward and buyer for the Metropolitan Market in Dash Point | Maguire’s Irish Bistro in the Capitol Hill district is the newest restaurant owned by Mick McHugh of FX McRory’s and TS McHugh’s fame. The chef is Brian Moss (formerly of Celtic Bayou, Chandler’s, and the Belltown Pub) | Chef/owner Michael Suzuki has opened Sagano, serving Japanese cuisine in the Bothell/Canyon Park area. Sommelier Jeanine Burke comes from Nell’s restaurant. Suzuki has worked alongside respected sushi chefs from Nishino and Shiro’s and at Flying Fish in Belltown | Chef and restaurant consultant Brian Poor has opened Jimmy G’s 70th Street Grill in Kirkland with Robert Baer as chef. President Paula Gaines spent $1 million and more than four years completing her dream of an updated family fun center and restaurant.


David Winer, owner of the popular Grillfish Restaurant in the West End and Logan Tavern in Logan Circle, has signed a lease to open Merkado (think Mexican cantina fused with Asian teahouse). The 3,500 square-foot space is located in the nearly completed Desoto building, in the Logan Circle neighborhood right across from Whole Foods Market. A national search is on for a chef | Interior designer-turned-chef Hump Astorga (ex-RSVP Catering) plans to open Aster with partner Joanne Errico in an historic Middleburg building. He will offer progressive American cuisine for dinner only | Obi Sushi and Penang will be part of the retail scene at Reston Town Center | Eric Roller and Todd Epstein have brought bagels and boldness to Ballston with the opening of Chutzpah Real New York Deli on Wilson Boulevard | The new Juniper in The Fairmont Hotel is overseen by chef Daryle Ryo Nagata, and features seasonal mid-Atlantic cuisine | Zyang Asian Grill, specializing in noodle dishes, is scheduled to open in a condo building in Falls Church by the end of the year | Look for the early-to-mid 2005 opening for the newest Clyde’s at Gallery Place | Jewel Zimmer is the pastry chef at the new CityZen fine-dining restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Her husband, Aaron Zimmer, is the new sous-chef. He previously held that position at The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in California | The new sous-chef at The St. Regis is Jeffrey Haight, who held that same position at Colvin Run Tavern.


Charlotte, NC

Cantina 1511 owner Frank Scibelli has appointed Chris Swinyard as executive chef. Formerly of Red Sage in Washington, D.C., and Dean & DeLuca in Charlotte, Swinyard replaces Gary Fenimore.

Overland Park, Kansas

Mark Webster has transferred his toque to the kitchens of the New Theatre Restaurant, listed by The Wall Street Journal as one of the most successful in the country.