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Sonic Gets Closer to New York, But Blue Coconut Slush Eludes Us

Sonic
If you’ve been to one of Sonic Drive-In’s 3,400-odd burger joints (you know, the ones with the carhops — some of them on roller skates) and have suburban nostalgia for the chocolate shakes, cherry limeades, and belly-busting 44-ounce slushes, you’ll have to travel 100 miles before you hit the nearest location (in Pennsylvania). That will change by the end of the year, says president of Sonic Industries, Scott McLain: The chain has broken ground on its first New Jersey outpost in Waretown (about an hour and a half from the city), with more to follow. What’s more, Sonic is working to bring a location to the New York metropolitan area within two years, but the closest it will get to Manhattan is Westchester County. “I don’t really know if we’ll move into the city or not,” McLain says, but he’s open to it. It’s time to get those petitions going. Sonic [Official site]

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NYC Chefs: Setaro Pasta Rules!

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Chelsea Market, a place we would avoid if there were anyplace else to get Setaro pasta. The supremacy of the Campagnan product, sold only in Buonitalia at the market, is something we never stop hearing about: last night, Kevin Garcia of Accademia del Vino told us, “All the top chefs I know use it — it’s the pasta of choice, the best I’ve ever been able to find.” Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Jonathan Benno at Per Se, and any number of other food luminaries swear by the stuff. But why? Buonitalia co-owner Antonio Magliulo says, “This company, Setaro, is very small. They don’t produce a lot of pasta. And when they dry it, it’s at low temperatures, so it keeps the flavor and texture. The way it cooks, the bite that it keeps — it’s something special.”

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Richie Akiva's and Scott Sartiano's 1OAK Will Not Open Friday

Richie Akiva
A while back Richie Akiva told us his new spot 1OAK was poised to “change the face of nightlife in New York.” That remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: It won’t be opening this Friday as originally planned. At a meeting last night, Akiva’s partner, Scott Sartiano, and their lawyer, Rob Bookman, said the club was not ready to open, according to a community-board source. Akiva plans to apply for a construction-alteration application in November, partly in hopes that a reduced capacity will make it easier for him to score the cabaret license he’s going after. (According to our source, Sartiano and Bookman said the establishment wouldn’t be a dance club — they just want a means of defense against the dance police). Asked about a new opening date, a spokesman for 1OAK said simply, “We are working with local community leaders to develop 1OAK according to the laws and regulations mandated by the city of New York.” For those of you who want to get your dance on ASAP, take heart — Marquee’s liquor license was recommended for renewal. Earlier: CB to Richie Akiva’s New Club: Not So Fast! Related: Butter’s Richie Akiva Dines with Puffy, Cooks for the ‘Wifey’

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John Hodgman Unlikely Star of Mixologist Calendar

Mixology Calendar
In what will surely become mixology’s version of Yankees Stadium's Monument Park, Jill DeGroff, wife of “King of Cocktails” Dale, has sketched caricatures of a dozen “cocktailians” and included them in a calendar that’s going for $17.95 (about the price of an overpriced drink!). Some of the local drink-slingers whose recipes and rosy-cheeked mugs are featured: Audrey Saunders from Pegu Club, Julie Rainer from Flatiron Lounge, and Sasha Petraske from Milk and Honey. Our favorite part, though, is the page on which a pants-less John Hodgman gives his preferred synonyms for booze.

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Jason Denton Pulls Lupa Chef for New Gramercy Venture

Lupa, Mario Batali’s Roman osteria on Thompson Street, has a loyal following, so Steve Connaughton’s imminent departure likely won’t affect volume. (The customers barely twitched when former chef Mark Ladner left for Del Posto.) Co-owner Jason Denton says he has moved Connaughton to a new venture at 323 Third Avenue to open in March, but he's quiet about other details. We hear from an industry source that Connaughton’s replacement will likely come from within the Batali-Bastianich family, if not from within Lupa itself. Who will be the lucky chef?

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Psilakis Isn't the Only Chef Who Knows Greek

Michael Psilakis's Michelin star (and other honors) is raising the profile of Greek cooking in New York, but other restaurants are looking to catch up. Ethos, a big, popular place in both its Manhattan and Astoria locations, is getting a classically trained new chef who vows to take the places to the next level. (A third Ethos, meanwhile, is slated to open in Great Neck at the end of the month.)

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Ever Work at Heartland Brewery? Time to Sue!

66
If you’ve worked an hourly job at Heartland Brewery’s six locations (including Spanky’s BBQ) in the past three years, start checking your mailbox. You won’t get an invite to the company Christmas party, but your presence is requested for a class-action lawsuit about minimum wage and overtime. A judge has ruled that attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum can send out the notice, which he’s taking as a positive sign: “The court bought into the fact that corruption, if there, applied equally to everyone at every location.” So if you feel ripped off, join eighteen of your former colleagues and place your order with the American legal system. Memorandum & Order: Peter Fasanelli v. Heartland Brewery [PDF] Earlier: Legal Battle on Tap for Heartland Brewery

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Come Summer, a New Look for Daniel

Daniel, arguably the grandest of the city’s top dining rooms is planning a rehab, though it won’t be until the summer. Though neither the restaurant nor its patrons are dissatisfied with the current room (and why would they be? It looks like the gateway to the afterlife, circa 1895!), the renovation will keep the place fresh. “Upper East Side ladies get their face-lifts before they’re needed,” spokeswoman Georgette Farkas tells us. “It's something we’ve been thinking about. But Daniel doesn’t want to do anything too revolutionary.” Farkas wouldn’t name names, but a source close to the restaurant says designer Adam Tihany, who did Le Cirque 3.0 and Osteria del Circo, is topping the short list of candidates. In the meantime, the Daniel empire has plenty to keep it busy: Bar Boulud is still slated for a December opening; Maison Boulud, in Bejing, will open in March; and Boulud’s downtown burger bar is, sadly, still unnamed. Related: Exclusive: Feast Your Eyes on Bar Boulud, Coming in November

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Is Da Domenico's Down for Good?

da Domenico
We were saddened to see that signs on the door of sandwich mecca da Domenico’s say it’s “TEMPORARILY CLOSED due to family problems.” Let’s hope the closure isn’t permanent, since Dom’s (as da Domenico’s was called back when it was on Lafayette Street) is one of Little Italy’s beloved institutions. Don’t believe it? Just look at some of the well wishes that about a dozen passersby have scrawled on owner Frank Migliori’s closing note: “I hope everything resolves itself for the good,” “We miss you!,” “Come back soon,” and the like. If only Ivan Kane could get that love from Little Italy residents. Earlier: Chinatown/Little Italy Deli Dearth Comes to an End

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Don't Pull a Neroni at This Year's James Beard Awards

It’s that time of year again — time for chefs to nominate themselves for the James Beard Awards! The process by which anyone and everyone can go online and get their favorite cooks and restaurants on the ballot is a recipe for self-promotion and voter fraud beyond Karl Rove’s juiciest fantasies. Just ask Jason Neroni, the “desperate chef” whose ingenuous plea to his friends and family propelled him to laughingstock status. The Beard Awards are actually decided by an august committee, but starting on Monday, anyone who wants to make the judges aware of a chef or restaurant (even if they aren’t that chef themselves) can do so by going to the Beard Website. By all means though, don’t write anything along the lines of “hey everybody, I need your help!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE vote for me for rising star chef!” Because, you know, someone could get a hold of it and publish it on a Website, and then where would you be? Related: Chef's Desperate Plea: Nominate Me for an Award!

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Wylie Dufresne's Stomping Grounds Can Now Be Yours

71 Clinton
71 Clinton Street, the former home of 71 Clinton Fresh Food and one of the New York dining world’s most hallowed addresses, will be back on the market next week after a previous deal collapsed. A Craigslist ad that put the rent at $11,500 for 1,200 square feet plus basement has now been removed, presumably because Tower Brokerage is adding the option of an adjacent corner space. Tower honcho Bob Perl says the previous lessee couldn’t handle the high rent and abandoned the space a week and a half ago. “It was an unknown-name type of entity,” Perl told us, speculating that they were inexperienced first-time operators. Want to make their same mistake? Call Bob now! Retail Listings [Tower Brokerage]

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Restaurant Daniel's Not a Noisy Neighbor, Court Rules

Daniel Boulud
A New York Supreme Court judge has ruled that Daniel Boulud is a good neighbor, the Post reports. The court dismissed a complaint filed by Robert and Frances Pildes against Restaurant Daniel for excessive noise. The court found, essentially, that the Pildes knew what they were getting when they bought a condo above a restaurant. While the Pildes made it sound like they complained all the time about noise, the court found only one instance that the Pildes had made a written, legitimate complaint. Only once could the Pildes prove that noise levels were too high at Daniel, and that was on New Year's Eve.

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Vongerichten's Soba Plans May Be in the Soup

66
Is Jean-Georges Vongerichten reconsidering plans for a soba restaurant? We’re hearing from sources within the Japanese restaurant community that Vongo’s deal with the Matsushita brothers has collapsed. The idea was to turn 66 into a Matsu Gen, a temple to the art of buckwheat noodles. The place was slotted to open this spring, but expectations are low. So will the 66 space get a new concept, or will Vongerichten do a soba restaurant with somebody else? We’ll let you know when we hear. Related: Vongerichten May Deep-Six 66, Serve Sushi and Soba Instead

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Socialite Tamsin Lonsdale's Supper Club Probably Doesn't Want You

Tamsin Lonsdale
While the Post ran a story yesterday focusing on Homeslice West’s secret dinners in Upper West Side apartments, the dinner-club scene is going to get a lot glitzier when Brit socialite Tamsin Lonsdale brings her London “supper club” to New York. Ahead of a launch party later this month, Lonsdale has already held recruiting dinners at Indochine, La Esquina, and Gemma — with more planned at Palma and the new Cantina. At the dinners, current members have entertained friends who might be willing to pay a $750 fee to be invited to what a spokesman (yes, a dinner club has hired a PR firm) tells us will eventually be twelve events a month (some of them requiring purchase of additional tickets).

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Ciprianis Get Out of Jail, Open New Restaurant

Giuseppe Cipriani
The Cipriani luck is running strong today, and the troubled restaurant family should be standing drinks all around. This morning the New York Post carried notice of a new Wall Street Cipriani restaurant, frequented by models and high-rolling types. And this afternoon, the clan learned that CEO Giuseppe Cipriani and family patriarch Arrigo Cipriani will not go to jail for tax fraud! The pair pleaded guilty in July to filing false corporate returns and will eventually pay $10 million in fines and back taxes. Giuseppe got three years probation and Arrigo received a conditional discharge that allows him to maintain his residence in Italy. Oh, and there’s a new business monitor peering into the books for the next several years, but the liquor license is still good. The Cipriani diet remains risotto and Champagne, not bread and water. Ciprianis Sentenced on Tax Fraud Charges [Crain’s NY]

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Zagat 2008 Smiles on Daniel, Gordon Ramsay, Others

New York’s little red book, the 2008 Zagat guide, is out today. It is more significant to the restaurant world than the Michelin guide, and for good reason: The same people who use it are the ones who write it. So what if it’s a popularity contest? Life is a popularity contest. There were some minor shakeups in this year’s rankings, such as Union Square Cafe retaking its sibling Gramercy as most popular restaurant, and Daniel retaking the top spot in cuisine from Le Bernardin. But the more interesting points required a slightly closer look.

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Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce: Alive?!?!

Ivan Kane
Forty Deuce spokesperson Kris Ferraro told us earlier that Ivan Kane wasn’t currently planning to proceed with a New York outpost of the club, but a Villager article points out that Kane still hasn’t withdrawn his application with the State Liquor Authority. We checked in with broker-to-the-hot-spots James Famularo who says he has received eight to ten Letters of Intent (a step normally taken after an offer letter) from café, restaurant, and lounge operators eager to take over the space. “One person wants to do a high-end clothing retailer — a national chain,” says Famularo. Still, he can’t do anything until Kane relinquishes his lease, and Kane hasn’t been in touch. The latest e-mail from Ferraro is cryptic: “‘May still’ are the words. He is not currently — or at this time moving forward, however — no final discussion has been made.” For his part, Famularo isn’t showing the space just yet: “How do you go this far and throw in the towel?” he says. “That would really surprise me if he does.” Related: Kane Teases Whether He’ll Drop Striptease Club Bid [Villager] Earlier: Exclusive: Ivan Kane Kills NYC Plans for Forty Deuce

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Russian Tea Room Hires Marc Taxiera As Chef

Russian Tea Room
The Russian Tea Room has found itself a new chef: former Beppe boss Marc Taxiera. Only in his first few weeks there, Taxiera is already revamping the menu, which has been in a state of suspended animation since former chef Gary Robins got the mitten in February. Taxiera has flown under the radar a little but is actually one of the more talented young chefs in town: Despite having no experience other than an ICE externship at Felidia and a job on the line at Baldoria, he did so well at Beppe that he was promoted from within when chef Cesare Casella left the restaurant to concentrate his energies on Maremma. Even though it's on what is usually thought of as a cursed street, Beppe continued to flourish, owing largely to Taxiera’s smart, muscular menu. Whether all that translates into Russian is another story, but it’s a smart move for the embattled Russian Tea Room. Related: Russian Tea Room Fires Gary Robins, and Robins Fires Back

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Michelin Stars: Colicchio Doesn't Care, But Psilakis Sure Does

Michelin stars, like their celestial models, have enormous power to create and destroy; and even if, unlike their European counterparts, the New York versions lack the power to drive chefs mad or even to suicide, they can still mean a lot to a chef. We spoke to two chefs yesterday. One had lost and the other had gained a star, and neither man seemed unshaken by the event.

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David Kamp Adds Two More Entries to the Food Snob's Dictionary

Riffling through the pages of David Kamp’s new book, The Food Snob’s Dictionary, we are reminded that food snobbery isn’t just for the well-heeled; we know a lot of scrubs who are just as snobby about their meals. Well, you can’t get anything by Kamp, so he’s sent us two Snob Dictionary addenda, exclusive to Grub Street. “The entries,” Kamp says, “fall into the Reverse Chic category of Food Snobbery, which is not heavily represented in the book (with the exceptions of entries for sliders, banh mi, and Asian street food).”

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