news &

Find your city here:

   February 2006


Nearly a year after leaving his executive chef post at Blu, Dante de Magistris is returning to Boston’s food scene. With the help of his brothers, Damian (former maitre d’ at Town in New York City) and Fillipo, de Magistris plans to open the Mediterranean/New American Dante in March. The 120-seat venture will be housed in the former Davio’s space in Cambridge’s Royal Sonesta Hotel | But don’t worry about Steve DiFillippo of Davio’s. The Boston outpost remains open, and next month his new project, Avila, will be opening just a few blocks away in the newly built mixed-use luxury building, One Charles | Fish out of water: Commuters can now grab sushi before they hop on their trains. Douzo, a new 120-seat Japanese restaurant located next to Back Bay Station, comes from Jack Huang, former co-owner of Brookline and Sudbury’s Fugakyu | And in case you still think Boston doesn’t have enough sushi, a new branch of Zagat darling Oishii Sushi is opening in the South End. With 60–80 seats, this third location gives patrons a chance to spread out, especially in comparison to the one-tabled Chestnut Hill site | Ricardo Ramos, owner of Arlington’s Zocalo, is in expansion mode: His new Oaxacan/Veracruzan–themed space in Brighton will feature Boston’s first rolling ceviche cart, as well as strolling serenaders, a retail store for imported gift items, a full bar, and valet parking | Further south of the border: Orinoco, a new Venezuelan restaurant in the South End, is offering authentic fare like arepas and empanadas. The tiny 20-seat eatery is owned by Andreas Branger. Fellow Venezuelan Carlos Walter, most recently of OLA Miami, is the chef.


Two Windy City Japanese restaurants have been in the news this winter. Tsuki Japanese Restaurant and Lounge gained notoriety for serving fugu—a blowfish that if not properly prepared can be deadly to eat. (The restaurant has since taken the fish off their menu due to its complicated supply-and-certification chain.) And then there’s Kozoku Sushi & Lounge, which has been getting press for serving sushi off of a nearly naked woman’s body. It may be cold in Chi-town, but it sure isn’t boring | Though Trader Vic’s Restaurant and Boathouse Bar, a virtual landmark in the basement of the Palmer House Hilton, closed on December 31, it may float again yet. Turns out Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group has stepped in to open and operate a new version of the place sometime in 2006, either in River North or on the Magnificent Mile. As part of the franchise agreement, Harry Caray’s will resurrect the restaurant’s bamboo decor, shell lamps, and tree-carved tables—and, of course, the trademark Mai Tai | Extra Virgin may sound like a singles joint, but this West Loop newcomer is actually an Italian wine bar featuring small plates that’s under the direction of chef Nick Van Wassenhove (La Vita and Le Lan) | The shuttered Biggs Mansion is scheduled to be reborn as Il Mulino, a branch of the famed NYC–based Italian eatery owned by brothers Gino and Fernando Masci. Menu offerings will include rustic seafood plates, cured meats, pasta dishes, and homemade cheeses | Lots of small plates (both hot and cold) and Spanish wines are the mainstay at Del Toro, which opened in the Wicker Park space that once housed MOD | Another new Wicker Park eatery is Bin Wine Cafe, an offshoot of Bin 36 in River North.


Jalapeños, Tomas Romero’s colorful restaurant that introduced Houstonians to spinach enchiladas, has closed its doors after 18 years to make way for a huge new development | The popular west Houston market Phoenicia Specialty Foods has moved across the street. Owner Robert Tcholakian still oversees the new location, which now includes a bakery, deli, butcher shop, grill, and produce departments, as well as an even larger selection of international foods | Kim Son has closed (their lease was up). But the La family will be opening another location on Bellaire Boulevard | Manfred Jachmich has changed the name of his westside Morgan’s Steakhouse to Chianti’s Tuscan Grill | Dave Edwards has sold Zula to restaurateur Julie Vo. As you may recall, he sold his interest in Trevisio earlier this year to Tracy Vaught. Edwards still owns the Thirsty Cactus | Anita Jaisinghani has opened Indika, a new restaurant featuring her favorite street foods from India | Charles Clark and Grant Cooper of Ibiza have a new restaurant in the works for this spring. Rumored to be named Catalan, it will feature a menu of Spanish tapas | Ryan Theodore of New Orleans (Sweet Lorraine’s, Bourbon Orleans Hotel) has settled in the Houston area and is the new chef at Carol’s at Cat Spring | Frankie B. Mandola, owner of the State Grille, has named Joe Vargyas as executive chef | Due to personal reasons, Paul Wade has resigned as executive chef at Quattro in the Four Seasons. The Italian grill menus he recently implemented will remain in place | Chef Edelberto Gonçalves has left Rouge. He is now the executive chef at Central Market.


Plans for the previously reported Michael Mina restaurant at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point (see Dateline, January 2006) have been finalized. The eatery will be called Stonehill Tavern and will serve Mina’s twist on contemporary tavern fare. Joshua Skenes (ex-Chez TJ in Mountain View) will be the toque in residence. Expect home-style comfort foods like organic whole fried chicken with roasted vegetables and grain mustard jus | Joachim Splichal and his Patina Group catering division have been active in the freshly trendy Palm Springs area for years, but now they have a permanent base at the newly launched boutique luxury property Hotel Zoso. Patina Group is responsible for all foodservice at the 163-room hotel, which includes casual restaurant Eat at the Desert and the soon-to-open Nick & Stef’s steakhouse (a branch of Splichal’s classic restaurant in downtown Los Angeles). Juan Leon, who was most recently the chef de cuisine at Patina, oversees all the kitchens | Six years after creating Jer-Ne Restaurant + Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, hotel exec Troy N. Thompson has stepped aside to concentrate on his other culinary duties at the property. Chef de cuisine Dakota Weiss, newly relocated from the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, is now Jer-Ne’s top menu-maker | Hugo Molina, a beloved area chef best known as the opening exec for the celebrated Parkway Grill in Pasadena during the 1980s, has been on sabbatical for the last 18 months recovering from a serious accident. He’s now back and happily stuffing the fresh ravioli at Tutti Mangia Italian Grill in Claremont. Molina’s mission is to elevate the nine-year-old neighborhood restaurant into a true destination | Chef/restaurateur Christian Shaffer (Avenue in Manhattan Beach) is expanding his boutique restaurant empire to the arts community of Ojai in Ventura County. The 90-seat Auberge at Ojai is now serving guests on the site of the well-known L’Auberge. The cuisine matches Schaffer’s signature contemporary American and French fare with an abundance of local vintages in the cellar. Chef de cuisine is Nickos Rovello, an alum of the Patina Group. In other Shaffer news, Christian and his wife, Tedde, have closed their original 36-seat Playa del Rey restaurant, Chloe, after three years | David Wilhelm’s Culinary Adventures, which owns a collection of restaurants in Orange County, has crossed into Los Angeles County with the debut of French 75 Bistro, located in the Pinnacle entertainment complex across the street from the NBC broadcast center in Burbank. The high-atmosphere, Parisian-style brasserie features a French/American bistro menu developed by corporate executive chef Yvon Goetz. The concept is a casual spin-off of Wilhelm’s successful French 75 in Laguna Beach, and future locations are set for Century City and Pasadena later in the year | Callaway Vineyard & Winery, a pioneer in developing the reputation of the Temecula Valley as a serious wine region, has been sold in two pieces by spirits goliath Allied Domecq. Shaw-Ross International has acquired both the original trademark (established by Eli Callaway in 1969) and the wholesaling rights for Callaway Coastal brand wines to retail shops and restaurants. Patricia Lin and her partners purchased the actual 50-acre winery site, which includes a 14-acre estate vineyard. This group will sell the Callaway Vineyard & Winery vintages exclusively through their wine club and in their tasting room. Only Temecula Valley–grown grapes will be used, and production will be reduced to a boutique level of 20,000 cases per year. Allie’s at Callaway, one of the premier destination restaurants in the area, will remain on the grounds | You may remember that Hans and Patti Rockenwagner celebrated the 20th anniversary of Rockenwagner last year with great flair. Now, with the end of the lease on their Edgemar Center space in Santa Monica approaching, Hans has sold the remaining time to another restaurant group. Next up for Hans and Patti is the opening later this spring of the eagerly awaited 3 Square Bakery & Cafe in Venice, coincidentally located a few blocks away from the site of the original Rockenwagner. The menu will feature contemporary diner fare, and a retail bakery will offer classic Rockenwagner pastries, breads, and Hans’s trademark pretzel variations.


Get ready to see the world in a whole new way.The third annual New York Times Travel Show will take place on February 24, 25 and 26 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Anyone who is passionate about travel can explore premiere destinations, properties, products and services ó and book trips on the spot. Over 400 exhibitors will be in attendance, including overseas and domestic tourism boards, spas, and cruises. Conference Programming on Friday, February 24 is dedicated for Travel and Tourism Trade only and includes a Travel and Tourism Conference, a Travel Agent Conference and a Travel Writers Conference. Go to for tickets and additional information. | Wednesdays with W.I.N.E. is a monthly wine tasting organized at the Eli Zabar-owned TASTE Restaurant and Wine Bar. Join wine director Jonathan Laufer and Martin Sinkoff of Pasternak Wine Importers on Wednesday, February 22nd, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Together they will share four French wines, including: Nicolas Feuillate Champagne; an Alsatian Gewurztraminer; a special red from The Languedoc; and a dessert wine from Provence. Wednesdays with W.I.N.E. offers a serious setting for wine aficionados to taste and analyze recent discoveries. Cheese pairing and Eliís bread will be served. Located at 1413 Third Avenue @ 80th, New York. Call 212-717-1999 for more information. | A little bit country: Geoffrey Zakarian’s much anticipated second act to Town, called Country, is opening one component at a time. A few months ago, the Cafe at Country opened, featuring executive chef Doug Psaltis’s casual European cooking. Until the debut of the very formal upstairs dining room, we’ll keep the bubbly cold and occupy ourselves at the newly opened Champagne Bar | Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner seems to be everywhere these days, leaving a delicious trail of Austrian and European dishes in his wake. Fresh from a splashy debut of Thor on the Lower East Side (we can’t get enough of his quark spaetzle), he’s opening Blaue Gans, a casual Austro-Germanic eatery in the Tribeca space that formerly housed Le Zinc. With a walk-in only policy and no printed menu, it’s a perfect spot to kick back and enjoy a beer and excellent schnitzel, courtesy of former Wallsé chef Martin Pirker | Caviar & Banana has closed. The Brazilian brasserie had replaced the troubled Rocco’s on 22nd. Owner Jeffrey Chodorow retains ownership of the space but, as of press time, hadn’t announced any plans | Barbounia had a last-minute chef change. Matthew Accarrino is out. Michael Cressotti of Sushi Samba is in. He’ll maintain the focus on Mediterranean cuisine | Matthew Kenney, who has espoused raw and vegetarian cooking for quite some time, recently founded Organic Umbrella, dedicated to creating “contemporary and environmentally-conscious companies,” according to its mission statement. The company is headquartered in the Plant, a colossal space in Dumbo that serves as part school, part retail space, and part commissary for his emerging group of Blue/Green juice cafes. One of the company’s first projects is the vegetarian restaurant Heirloom on the Lower East Side. Chef de cuisine Amanda Cohen oversees the day-to-day operations | Kitchen & Cocktails recently closed on the Lower East Side. It had been open for only a few months | Marc Murphy, owner of the fabulously chic bistro Landmarc in Tribeca, has taken over the also fabulously chic yet unfortunately closed Yumcha in the West Village. What was a short-lived modern Chinese eatery will soon traipse into another popular culinary idiom, the oyster bar. Stay tuned for more details | Eat ’til you shop. Upscale department store Bergdorf Goodman recently debuted its stylish restaurant, BG. Restrained, sophisticated, and drop-dead gorgeous describes both the customers stopping by for lunch, tea, and early dinner and the plates prepared by chef Keith Williams, former sous-chef at the Modern | A few blocks away, culinary maverick David Burke has opened a very different retail restaurant: David Burke at Bloomingdale’s and the adjoining take-out stop, Burke in a Box. His cooking is as wildly flavorful and irreverent as it gets. Chocolate-covered Cheerios for breakfast? Angry hen-in-law for dinner? Where do we even start? | Gordon Ramsay, whose eponymous restaurant holds three Michelin stars in the UK, has plans to invade America. Ramsay has announced plans to open two restaurants in New York and Los Angeles. The Midtown Righa Royal Hotel (to be renamed the London NYC) will house his East Coast venture, which is due to open next summer | Calling all chocolate connoisseurs. The high-end Normandy-based chocolatier, Michel Cluizel, has opened its first stateside boutique in the ABC Carpet & Home store in the Flatiron district. An exquisite range of chocolates from around the world will be paired with wines and spirits at the bar. Tastings and classes are also available | Celebrated chef Gray Kunz plans to develop the former Aquavit space in Midtown into a lounge and restaurant with a private dining room. He has not yet selected a name. The project will take about a year | Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Blair Perrone is the latest in a spate of Peter Luger–inspired steakhouses to open in recent months. Charlie Blair, former Luger bartender, and Joe Perrone, former MarkJoseph manager, are the owners of the spacious Turtle Bay spot. Expect porterhouse steaks as the specialty | Franklin Becker has had a busy year. He was working with the Philadelphia-based Stephen Starr restaurant group, as well as penning his first cookbook, The Diabetic Chef. Now he’s back in the Big Apple heading the kitchen at Brasserie in Midtown. He replaces Luc Dimnet, who moved to Hastings-on-Hudson to open his own restaurant | Now that Iacopo Falai has proved his substantial Italian cooking chops at his modern Falai on the Lower East Side, the former Le Cirque pastry chef is ready to flex his dessert muscles. Falai Panetteria, a bakery across the street from his restaurant, is serving pastries and Italian sweets. Pizzas, salads, and Venetian snacks are also in the works.


Living la vida pura: Chef/owner Charles Alvarez, with the help of his sister Lillian and wife Julie, has opened Pura Vida, a small Latin fusion place in the Northern Liberties area. This is his first solo venture after two decades cooking around town at Ciboulette, Dock Street, Mixto, and El Fuego | Forget about ancient history at Old City’s Gigi—the latest in a spree of serious Greek-inspired restaurants. George Markakis is behind the venture, which features executive chef Brian McCleish (ex-Adobe) | New York’s Larry Forgione (An American Place) now has his name on Larry Forgione’s Signature Cafe, a third-floor eatery inside Lord & Taylor that offers salads and sandwiches | Vince Alberici (the long-time chef of now-shuttered Adam’s Mark Hotel) is overseeing the kitchen at the RiverCrest Golf Club in Oaks | It’s the law: Barristers Bar and Grille has opened near Rittenhouse Square and is owned by Michael S. Williams. Chef Korm Syed’s menu makes a strong case that gastropubs are the next big thing.


Barry Lane has left Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe. No replacement has been named | La Cantinella Grill has replaced the long-standing Jay’s Gourmet in Cardiff by the Sea. The new owner is Gaetano Cicciotti. The space has been revamped to highlight the patio, which features expansive lagoon views, and the menu is Mediterranean. The Jay’s Gourmet in Carlsbad continues to operate | Ed Moore’s Third Corner in Ocean Beach is now a French bistro. Moore also owns Thee Bungalow across the street | Modus has opened in the Bankers Hill section of downtown. The bar, lounge, and supper club are the creation of chef Nathan Coulon (son of local restaurateur Don Coulon and dessert-maker Michele Coulon), sommelier Scotty Johnson (formerly of Region), and cocktail guru Ariana Johnson (ex-Martini Ranch).


CrabFest '06 is here, San Francisco's fourth annual tribute to the delights of Dungeness crab. The month-long celebration includes, among other things, a wine fest featuring crab paella at THE CANNERY at Del Monte Square; some up-close-and-personal encounters with the iconic crustaceans at Aquarium of the Bay and the famed Alioto-Lazio Fish Co., 440 Jefferson St.; special bay cruises on Blue & Gold Fleet and Red and White Fleet boats; special offers at a number of wharf restaurants and a classic car show. Downtown Union Square will be the setting for the celebrity crab-cracking event on Feb. 25, which benefits the San Francisco 49ers Foundation. Details on these and other CrabFest events, as well as the names of participating restaurants, crab facts and recipes are posted at | Fans of chef Richard Reddington, who gained fame at Auberge du Soleil, can visit his new Yountville restaurant, Redd. His partners are Auberge owners Claude Rouas and Bob and Tim Harmon, who also own the Piatti chain and El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma. Look for Richard’s inspired take on rustic fare | Les Amis opened in a converted firehouse in the city’s Financial District in the former Zare space, marking yet another notch for Plouf team Olivier Azancot and Eric Klein. The chef is Thomas Weibull, the manager is Zack Beunartea, and the sous-chef is Christopher Scott. Together, they’ll be serving contemporary French cuisine | Long-time restaurateur Sam Duvall is selling his 100-seat Cuban-themed Habana in San Francisco, which he opened in 2003. La Joya Restaurant & Bar took over the Habana space last month. The chef is Alexandra Gomez, who has worked at hotels in Monterrey and Veracruz, Mexico. Gomez is serving moderately priced Mexican dishes, including homemade mole poblano with chicken | Harveen Khera of Tallula closed her 60-seat California–Indian restaurant in the Castro when the lease—and the rent—went up in January | Chef Charles Solomon, who closed his San Francisco restaurant Chaz, has moved on to Fork in San Anselmo, where he’s cooking lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. He replaces Scott Howard, who left to open his namesake restaurant. Solomon came to prominence at his four-star restaurant, the Heights, in the 1990s | Seafood-focused Lure in downtown San Mateo is reeling them in with chef/owner May Lawrence at the helm. She’s touching on coastal flavors with dishes like smoked yellowtail terrine and Arctic char crudo with radish and smoked fennel salt.


Grand Master (Kansai) chef Shinji Kimura and his wife, Sandy, have opened Sakura Japanese Bistro in the Maple Leaf district. Kimura’s culinary career began at Matsumoto in Osaka, Japan, when he was only 17. Discovered at Benkay in the Hotel Nikko in Chicago, he is one of a handful of elite chefs who are recognized with the Grand Master distinction. His new menu combines exotic flavors and a classic French bistro atmosphere | Filling a full block, Lincoln Square opened in Bellevue under the direction of developer Kemper Freeman Jr. The new project, which is expected to bring new nightlife into the suburbs, features three new restaurants: Manzana Rotisserie Grill, a casual upscale dining concept that’s part of the Pacific Coast Restaurant Group, Maggiano’s Little Italy, and McCormick & Schmick’s. Lincoln Square will also include a first-of-its-kind, $4 million venue called the Parlor Billiards and Spirits. The adults-only 20,000-square-foot space showcases 43 billiard tables, a food and drink menu with 24 specialty martinis, and a 42-foot bar | Chad Mackay has been named president and chief operating officer of Mackay Restaurants, founded by his father, Paul Mackay. Ken Sharp, the company’s executive chef, will assist Mackay with day-to-day operations. Mackay properties include El Gaucho, Sea Grill, Troiani, Ristorante Italiano, Waterfront Grill, and the Inn at El Gaucho.