Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Alhambra Palace Already Changes Chef

IN THE NEWS: Reports Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine chicagomag.com: "Eric Aubriot, after mere weeks as exec chef at Alhambra Palace (1240 W. Randolph St.), is out of there. Replacing him are Daniel Wright (Souk, Blackbird) and the Moroccan-born Bouchaib “Bouch” Khribech, chef-owner of Ravenswood’s Marrakech Expresso. ... Trattoria Trullo, formerly across from Ryan Field in Evanston, will open in Lincoln Square (4767 N. Lincoln Ave.) the first week in June. ... Winston’s Market (3440 N. Southport Ave.), a 2,500-square-foot café/gourmet takeaway, opened last week on the heart of Southport Avenue. We have high hopes: partners Jerry Winston, his wife, Kim Winston, and his brother, Mike Winston, lured Janet Kirker—a Charlie Trotter’s alum who ran the kitchen at Trotter’s To Go—as chef for the airy 24-seat (plus 15 outdoors) spot. ... Dib Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine (1025 W. Lawrence Ave.), a new 37-seat Uptown BYO, is the love child of Tai Thongthomya and her boyfriend, chef Montra Kaenkumjorn (Edo, Kikuya). ... Brio Tuscan Grille, an Italian chain with 20 links nationwide, is opening another branch at 330 Yorktown Center in Lombard this summer." ... See David Tamarkin's review of Alhambra Palace in TimeOut Chicago. ... The magazine has a few questions for chef Dirk Flanigan of The Gage and also notes, "The process of opening the Midwest’s first certified-organic restaurant almost drove Michael Altenberg certifiably insane. The chef-owner of Bistro Campagne has long been dedicated to organic and sustainable ingredients, but for his new pizza project Crust (slated to open May 24), he decided to go all the way. ..." The mag also features Milwaukee Avenue's Silver Palm, the transformed railroad car/turned restaurant from owner David Gevercer, who also owns the Matchbox bar next door. timeout.com/chicago ...

The Trib's Phil Vettel blogs leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/thestew about three restaurants that deserve more attention in Chicago's touristy areas: the Italian eatery Club Lago (331 W. Superior St.), Spanish small plates joint De Cero (814 W. Randolph St.) and Devon Seafood Grill (39 E. Chicago Ave). ... The Trib's Glenn Jeffers reports on Bucktown wine bar-bistro-gastropub called Bluebird (1749 N Damen Ave), the newest concept from Webster Wine Bar owner Tom MacDonald. Opening in late June, Bluebird will be a European-style restaurant pairing a small-plates menu with an expansive wine and beer list. ... The Trib's Joe Gray takes a first look at panini shop Vella Cafe ... Cheap Eats column gives two forks to Eggsperience Cafe (2000 Tower Drive, Glenview). chicagotribune.com ... The Chicago Reader's Nicholas Day has a full-fledged review of Vella Cafe (1912 N. Western) and also includes a lengthy list of sublime sandwich shops, topped by Ba Le Sandwich Shop (5018 N. Broadway). chicagoreader.com ... Blogger ChicagoBites.com reviews Figo (110 N. Third St., St. Charles) ... The Sun-Times reports, "In February, the Andersonville community lost one of its most revered and prominent businesses when Ingvar Wikstrom, 79, closed his Swedish deli on North Clark Street. This summer though, the Wikstrom name returns to the area as daughter Marie opens a new deli next door to the Swedish American Museum her dad helped to build." The deli is to open in July at 5217 N. Clark. ... The paper also features the city's customized lunch trucks. ... Misha Davenport profiles Rasheed Williams' nightime dessert shop Carolina Caramel (1511 S. State). ... Reports religion writer Susan Hogan-Albach, "Friday afternoons, taxis cram the parking lot and streets around Zaiqa's Restaurant on North Orleans, just north of downtown. Indian and Pakistani cuisine are kept hot, while the drivers -- dozens and dozens of them -- gather on prayer rugs in the basement. Zaiqa is among a dozen businesses that also double as "mini-mosques" rimming the Loop. They're more than prayer rooms, but hubs for working Muslims who have only a brief time to relax, eat and pray before getting back to their jobs. suntimes.com ... Blog ChicagoFoodies.com samples the barbecue at Fat Willy's (2416 W. Schubert).

Compiled by Pat Embry, WhereTheLocalsEat.com

Monday, May 21, 2007

Several Locals on Esquire's Best Bars List

Esquire magazine's second annual Best Bars of America list is out in the June 2007 issue. They include:

Lou's Pub & Package, Birmingham, Ala.; J Lounge, Golden Gopher, The Edison, The Broadway Bar, La Cita, Bordello, Redwood, and Bar 107, Los Angeles; Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood, Calif.; The Polo Lounge, Beverly Hills; Beach Ball, Newport Beach, Calif.; Brennan's Pub, Marina Del Ray, Calif.; Bourbon & Branch, The Owl Tree, Vesuvio, and Zeitgeist, San Francisco; The Sportsman, Sonora, Calif.; Cruise Room, and El Chapultepec, Denver; Jimbo's, and Churchill's Pub, Miami; The Clermont Lounge, Atlanta; Lewers Lounge at the Halekulani Hotel, and La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu; The California Clipper, The Red Lion Pub, Bungalow, The Matchbox, Hideout, and Chipp Inn, Chicago; The Red Key, and Nicky Blaine's, Indianapolis; The Old Seelbach Bar, Louisville; The Chart Room, The Bar at Tujague's, Fritzel's European Jazz Pub, and Napoleon House, New Orleans; The Brewer's Art, and Shamrock Inn, Baltimore; B-Side Lounge, Cambridge, Mass.; No. 9 Park, Boston; Doyle's Cafe, Jamaica Plain, Mass.; The Bar at Seldom Blues, Detroit; Miller's Bar, Dearborn, Mich.; Bulldog NE, and Nye's Polonaise Room, Minneapolis; Half Time Rec, St. Paul; John D. McGurk's, St. Louis; Any bar on the Strip, Double Down Saloon, and Petrossian Bar, Las Vegas; Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, Little Branch, The Bar at Keens Steakhouse, Minetta Tavern, Jimmy's Corner, The Angel's Share, The Brooklyn Inn, The Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel, Flatiron Lounge, The Saloon, San Domenico Restaurant, Spuyten Duyvil, 21 Club, Grassroots Tavern, Bill's Gay 90s, Julius', and Pegu Club, New York City; Freddy's Bar & Backroom, Brooklyn; Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, Queens; Thomas Street Tavern, Charlotte, NC; Andyman's Treehouse, Columbus, Ohio; The Library Bar & Grill, Norman, Okla.; Friendly Lounge, The Grey Lodge, and Southwark, Philadelphia; Dee's Cafe, Pittsburgh; Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, and Robert's Western World, Nashville; La Tuna, San Antonio; Donn's Depot, Austin; The Inwood Lounge, Dallas; Shooting Star Saloon, Huntsville, Utah; Sambar, Zig Zag Cafe, and Fu Kun Wu, Seattle; Hawk 'n' Dove, and The Tune Inn, Washington, DC; Holler House, Milwaukee.

IN THE NEWS: David Tamarkin of TimeOut Chicago timeout.com/chicago writes, "Since 1938, few restaurant names have held as much cachet in Chicago as the Pump Room (1301 N State Pkwy at Goethe St). But just like many of the celebrities who flocked to this famous Gold Coast dining room in the ’60s, the restaurant has fallen out of favor, its name overshadowed by the bigger, newer, glitzier restaurants in town. The famous Pump Room isn’t so famous anymore, and it’s suffering because of it. “We should be doing 50 [people] every night, and we’re not,” executive chef Nick Sutton says. “Some nights we’re lucky if we do ten.” Everybody involved seems to agree that the problems started in 1999, when management duties were passed from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which had been running the restaurant for a few years, to the Omni Hotel, which at that time owned and operated the Ambassador Hotel. According to Sutton, the Omni didn’t run the Pump Room like the Pump Room. “When Omni used to own it, it was just considered a hotel restaurant—there wasn’t any pride taken in it,” he says. Now, both the Ambassador Hotel and the Pump Room are run by Portfolio Hotel Group, a company that boasts former Pump Room general manager Helmut Horne as a partner. Having worked at the restaurant in its glory days, Horne is interested in bringing the restaurant back to what it once was. But problems still persist. ..."

... TimeOut also stops by Vella Cafe (1912 N Western Ave), Cordis Brothers Supper Club (1625 W Irving Park Rd) and Manor (642 N Clark St) and chats with chef Bruce Sherman of North Pond ... The Sun-Times suntimes.com looks at the welcome trend of downsized desserts, including those at Vong's Thai Kitchen. ... Critic Pat Bruno offers a wrapup of the area's top outdoor dining spots, including Athena and Riva. ... Thomas Witom reviews La Granja (1572 N. Rand in Palatine) and Wildfish (730 Waukegan in Deerfield), while Denise O'Neal takes a first look at the much-anticipated Alhambra Palace Restaurant (1240 W. Randolph) ... The Trib's chicagotribune.com Trine Tsouderos looks at the growing popularity of seasonal restaurant menus, mentioning: Prairie Grass Cafe, Bistro Campagne, North Pond, and many more ... The Trib also looks at the influx of fresh grapefruit in dishes and cocktails at area establishments, while the Trib's blog The Stew: does David Burke's Primehouse on the (relative) cheap; critic Phil Vettel visits and reviews Parlor (1745 W. North Ave.); and First Bites stops by The Gage and Coalfire Pizza ... The Reader chicagoreader.com reviews new restaurants The Gage (24 S. Michigan), Amphora (7547 N. Clark), and Republic Pan-Asian Restaurant & Lounge (58 E. Ontario) and its The Food Chain blog runs a report from Martha Bayne on the growing pains of Coalfire Pizza, which opened recently and got so much business thanks in part to mention on the foodie blog www.lthforum.com, it ran out of dough one night and had to close early.

Chicago magazine's chicagomag.com June edition includes an interview with Jerry Kleiner (Carnivale, Red Light), whose latest multimillion-dollar venture is the American-style bistro Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.), in an old Capone hideout. ... Bloggers Chicago Bites chicagobites.com stop by Frontera Grill the day after the restaurant won its best U.S. restaurant award from the James Beard Foundation ... The Menu Pages blogs.menupages.com/chicago reports, "In a blow to performative dining in Chicago, the only local branch of Benihana closed (May 15). Just where are tacky people going to get their Japanese food now? Good news! RA Sushi is owned by the Benihana people, and is in no danger of going anywhere. We went to a Benihana once, and the guy who was doing our shrimp missed when he he tried to flip the shells into his chef's hat. Also, the steak wasn't great, and it was expensive. We don't say good riddance, because we the theatricallity eventually wore down our jaded demeanor, but...we don't think it's a crime that the closest Benihanas are in Lombard, Wheeling and Schaumburg - exactly where they belong." ... Blogger The Chicago Burger Project chicagoburgerproject.blogspot.com stops by Bin Wine Cafe and Rosebud Steakhouse ... The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that Hooters Inc., the founders of the original Hooters restaurant concept, and Hooters Management Corp. plan to switch to zero trans-fat frying oil in its 22 restaurants in Tampa Bay, Chicago and New York City. ... ChicagoBusiness.com looks at outdoor dining options.

Compiled by Pat Embry, WhereTheLocalsEat.com

Monday, May 14, 2007

Chicago No. 2 on Best Restaurant Cities List

"Today ... most major cities in the U.S. have the kind of gastronomic diversity and regionality that is rich in every department, and even if you’ve visited recently, you can be sure that next time you go, there’ll be more new and enticing restaurants than you could possibly visit," writes Donald Burnam in a recent ForbesTraveler.com piece, "America's Best Restaurant Cities." "It’s getting hard not to have a great meal anywhere in the U.S.." Burnam continues.

Forbes' Top 10 Restaurant Cities:
1. New York City
2. Chicago
3. San Francisco
4. Los Angeles
5. New Orleans
6. Houston
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Atlanta
9. Boston
10. Las Vegas

Rankings were based on: Overall number of restaurants above the fast food level; Number of fine dining restaurants with national and international standing; Solid representation of regional American food; A wide segment of second-tier restaurants that would include seafood, steakhouses, and independently chef-owned restaurants; Breadth and depth of ethnic restaurants, especially if the city has neighborhood such as a Chinatown; A significant number of neigborhood restaurants where the locals tend to eat out regularly; A well-traveled clientele that regards eating out in that city one of the real pleasures of going there.

Bobtail on Top Ice Cream List
Just in time for summer, Mark DeCarlo, host of Travel Channel's Taste of America, lists his favorite 10 ice cream and frozen confections joints in USA Today usatoday.com: Pinkberry, Los Angeles pinkberry.com; Angelo Brocato's, New Orleans, angelobrocatoicecream.com; Graeter's, Cincinnati (with other locations in Dayton, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington, Ky.), graeters.com; Leon's Frozen Custard, Milwaukee, foodspot.com/leons; Ghirardelli, San Francisco (for the hot fudge sundaes), ghirardelli.com; Otto, New York ottopizzeria.com/menu_gelato.html; Ted Drewes, St. Louis, teddrewes.com; Bobtail Ice Cream Co., Chicago, bobtailicecream.com; Valentino's, Las Vegas, venetian.com; Waiola Shave Ice, Honolulu.

IN THE NEWS: Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine's Dish column report: Dale Levitski will be Chicago’s lone contestant on the upcoming season of Bravo’s Top Chef, which begins June 6 ... There are seven question for Jon Young (Volo), on his upcoming pub-inspired restaurant in River West, Paramount Room (415 N. Milwaukee Ave.), launching in June ... Michael Dean Hazen, chef of Ristorante We (W–Chicago City Center), will leave the Tuscan steak house on May 19 ... Hi Tea (14 E. 11th St.), a café/store dedicated to tea, opened in March in the South Loop ... Helen Cameron, co-owner of Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St.), a Wrigleyville coffee ship, says she and her husband, Michael, plan to open Uncommon Ground on Devon in the old Speakeasy space (1401 West Devon Ave.). ... Bluprint, a modern restaurant/lounge from Blue Plate Catering (Rhapsody), is to open in the Merchandise Mart (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 135) in July. chicagomagazine.com ... Chicago Tribune metromix.chicagotribune.com Buzz columnists Chris LaMorte and Terri Mooney report on the new Cordis Brothers Supper Club: Mike and Dan Cordis, the brothers behind Wise Fools Pub, have gutted the Biasetti's address in Lakeview to create a more modern--but still comfy--destination. It opens Friday night (May 11). "The only thing we're keeping is the ribs," says Dan. (He says to look for a new lineup of pastas and steaks too.) So what makes it a supperclub? "Supperclub has two definitions," he explains. "One is the '30s-'40s nightclub thing …where you can picture Carey Grant. The other is the Wisconsin supperclub where your meal is all-inclusive--you get a relish tray, soup or salad, vegetable and potato with your entree. That way you don't get the sticker shock at the end." Want entertainment? Stick around for DJs after dinner." ... LaMorte compares and contrasts two "humongo" restaurants that opened recently: Room 21 in the South Loop and Alhambra Palace in the Warehouse District ... Trib critic Phil Vettel blogs about the tripe at Riccardo Trattoria and his visit to Chaulkboard in Lincoln Square ... The Sun-Times' Pat Bruno visits an old favorite, Yoshi's Cafe, 3257 N. Halsted. suntimes.com .. The Chicago Reader features Hoosier Mama Pie Company and rounds up the area's top dessert spots chicagoreader.com ... TimeOut Chicago timeout.com/chicago reviews: The Gage, 24 S. Michigan Ave. between Monroe and Madison Sts; and The Republic, 58 E. Ontario St. at Rush St. ... The magazine also visits the new Gloria's Cafe, 3300 W. Fullerton Ave. at Spaulding Ave. .. Blogger Chicagobites.com visits Wells Street's Xel-Ha (pronounced "shell-ha"), which serves spicy Latin fare from the Yucatan Peninsula. ... Crain's Chicago Business chicagobusiness.com reviews Catch Thirty-Five, 35 W. Wacker Drive.
Compiled by Pat Embry, WhereTheLocalsEat.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Frontera Grill Tops Beard Awards

Chicago's Frontera Grill won Outstanding Restaurant of the Year and Michel Richard of Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington, D.C. was named Outstanding Chef at the 2007 James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony. Hosted by CBS Early Show anchor Hannah Storm, the Beard Awards were held May 7 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York's Lincoln Center. More than 60 awards were presented by the country's pre-eminent nonprofit culinary organization, in its 20th anniversary celebration, and more than 1,600 industry leaders attended the ceremony. Other top awards went to: New York's L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, named Best New Restaurant; Thomas Keller (The French Laundry, Yountville, Ca.) received the award for Outstanding Restaurateur; and David Chang (Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York) received the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Celebrity and culinary superstar attendees included Stephanie March, Ted Allen, Katie Lee Joel, Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres, Tom Colicchio, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Padma Lakshmi, and Marcus Samuelsson. The Foundation's Media Awards took place at a separate event at the Hudson Theatre at Millennium Broadway Hotel on May 6. All Award winners received a bronze medallion etched with the image of the late James Beard, the esteemed chef, cookbook author, and food journalist. There are no cash awards. Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards recognizes outstanding achievement within the fine food and beverage industry in North America. For full awards results, please visit http://www.jamesbeard.org.

Beard Award highlights are:

AMERICA'S CLASSICS: Primanti Brothers, Demetrios Patrinos, Pittsburgh, Pa.; The Pickwick, Christopher Wisocki, Duluth, Minn.; Doe's Eat Place, The Signa Family, Greenville, Miss.; Aunt Carrie's, Elsie Foy, Narragansett, R.I.; I

Brookville Hotel, Mark and Connie Martin, Abilene, Kan.; Weaver D's, Dexter Weaver, Athens, Ga.

BEST CHEF, GREAT LAKES: Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago

BEST CHEF, MID-ATLANTIC: R.J. Cooper, III, Vidalia, Washington, DC

BEST CHEF, MIDWEST: Celina Tio, The American Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo.

BEST CHEF, NEW YORK CITY: David Waltuck, Chanterelle, New York, NY

BEST CHEF, NORTHEAST: Frank McClelland, L'Espalier, Boston

BEST CHEF, NORTHWEST: John Sundstrom, Lark, Seattle

BEST CHEF, PACIFIC: Traci Des Jardins, Jardinière, San Francisco

BEST CHEF, SOUTH: Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans

BEST CHEF, SOUTHEAST: Scott Peacock, Watershed, Decatur, Ga.

BEST CHEF, SOUTHWEST: Nobuo Fukuda, Sea Saw, Scottsdale, Ariz.

BEST NEW RESTAURANT: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Chef-Owner: Joël Robuchon, New York, NY

OUTSTANDING CHEF: Michel Richard, Michel Richard Citronelle, Washington, DC

OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF: Michael Laskonis, Le Bernardin, New York, NY

OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT: Frontera Grill, chef-owner: Rick and Deann Bayless, Chicago

OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR: Thomas Keller, The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.

OUTSTANDING SERVICE: Rick Tramonto, Gale Gand, and Richard Melman, Tru, Chicago

OUTSTANDING WINE AND SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL: Paul Draper, Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino, Calif.

OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE: Mark Slater, Michel Richard Citronelle, Washington, DC

RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR: David Chang, Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York, NY

David Burke's Primehouse, De La Costa on Hot List
Conde Nast Traveler magazine just published its Hot List of the world's best restaurants. Here are the hottest of the hot in the U.S.: Brix, Flagstaff, Ariz.; Cut, Beverly Hills; Hatfield's, Los Angeles; Katsuya, Los Angeles; Social Hollywood, Los Angeles; West, Los Angeles; Coi,
San Francisco; NOPA, San Francisco; Perbacco, San Francisco; Salt House, San Francisco; Ad Hoc, Yountville, Ca.; Dressing Room, Westport, Conn.; Michy's, Miami; David Bouley Evolution, Miami Beach; Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, Miami Beach; Trois, Atlanta; David Burke's Primehouse, Chicago; De La Costa, Chicago; Riche, New Orleans; Sorellina, Boston; Guy Savoy, Las Vegas; Nove Italiano, Las Vegas; Rao's, Las Vegas; A Voce, New York City; Boqueria, New York City; Gordon Ramsay at The London, New York City; L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, New York City; Little Owl, New York City; Momofuku Ssäm, New York City; Varietal, New York City; Waverly Inn, New York City; New York City; Herons, Cary, N.C.; Piedmont, Durham, N.C.; XIX, Philadelphia; Bess Bistro on Pecan, Austin; Craft, Dallas; Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.

IN THE NEWS: Orlando-based Darden Restaurants shut down more than 50 of its Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill locations across the country on May 5 and said it will sell the remaining 73, The Orlando Sentinel reported May 6. The closings include Chicago-area stores in Schaumburg and Aurora. ... From a blog post from the Trib's Phil Vettel on May 1: "They were lighting figurative cigars over at the American Lung Association on Tuesday, after the Illinois House, by a whopping 73-42 vote, passed a law banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places throughout the state of Illinois. And at least one restaurateur was pleased too. The bill must still be signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but he has been a supporter of the measure. Once signed, the legislation would take effect Jan. 1, 2008." ... Trib Mother's Day dining recommendations include Twisted Spoke and La Cucina di Donatella. And a neighborhood taco roundup leads with Logan Square's El Cid 2. metromix.chicagotribune.com ... Marche is now serving lunch, the Sun-Times Pat Bruno reports. Bruno also reviews several area steakhouses. suntimes.com ... The Chicago Reader offers an extensive roundup of Latin American restaurants. chicagoreader.com ... Big Sweet Tooth blog looks at Le Bouchon ... Chicagoist.com looks at the West Side's McNamara's ... TimeOut Chicago's blog The TOC Blog stops by Alhambra and also reports that French chef Didier Durand will open a seasonal eatery called Cyrano's Cafe on the riverwalk this summer. The mag gives four stars to Baccala (1540 N. Milwaukee Ave.), three stars to Hop Haus (646 N. Franklin St.) and gives early looks to Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.) Coal Fire (1321 W. Grand Ave.), and Sura (3124 N. Broadway). timout.com/chicago. ... Among the reports from Chicago magazine's Dish columnists Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby: "Kelvin Cheung, the talented chef of Ginger Asian Bistro (15700 S. Harlem Ave., Orland Park), has split from the nine-month south suburban standout. (It recently made Chicago magazine’s list of the best new restaurants of 2007.) So what happened? Cheung claims the owners are changing concepts. “I just wanted to let you know so your readers would not go to Ginger thinking it was like your write-up,” he says. But Kai Chow, Ginger’s owner, sings a different tune. “Kelvin left us,” he says. “It is still Pan-Asian fusion, and the menu will still be 60 percent the same.” Chow wasted no time in replacing Cheung with Peter Han, a veteran of the Clarion Hotel, but has closed the restaurant as of May 2nd and will reopen it on May 15th. “Prebookings, events, groups are still on,” Chow says. “We just don’t want to overtax the kitchen at this point in time.” The mag also report that: "Pastoral, an artisan cheese/bread/wine gourmet shop in Lake View, will open a Loop location late this summer; Pancho Viti’s (431 Temple Ave., Highland Park), Gabriel Viti’s Mexican restaurant that was all the rage a couple of years back, has closed. Seems the property has been rented to Isaac Naba (La Casa del Gordo), who has opened the budget-minded La Casa de Isaac Mexican Restaurant in the space. ... Giovanni Scalzo, owner of the DePaul neighborhood Italian standout Via Carducci (1419 W. Fullerton Ave., plans to open La Sorella (“The Sister,” 1928 W. Division St.) the first week of June. ... (New York-tyle pizza specialist) Robert Bata opened Rogers Park Pizzeria (1632 W. Howard St.), in April ... Wolfgang Puck is planning a kosher café at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies (618 S. Michigan Ave.) when the museum opens its $55 million facility this November. ... A Morton’s Steakhouse is opening in 2008—this one in Freedom Commons, a 25-acre development under construction at I-88 and Freedom Boulevard in Naperville. ... Throughout May, Zealous (419 W. Superior St.) celebrates its 14th birthday (six years in Elmhurst, eight in River North) with a special menu (five courses, $85). ... Washington, D.C. blogger dcfud.com raves about Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd. and stops by the new Taqueria Nacionale, 444 N. Capitol St.

Compiled by Pat Embry, WhereTheLocalsEat.com