Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Hail to the Chef: Chef Christopher Gross left Christopher's last December, after an acrimonious split with partner Guy Coscas. Since then, Gross has been anxious to get back into the restaurant game.

He's been scouting for investors and checking into locations. Now, the scouting and checking are over.

Although all the i's and t's haven't been dotted and crossed, I hear that Gross won't be moving far from his old 24th Street and Camelback haunt. He'll be across the street at Biltmore Fashion Park, running a bistro-style kitchen in the spot now occupied by Nola's. Imagine--Christopher, Puck and RoxSand, all close enough to throw rocks at each other.

Gross's backers are some of this town's heaviest hitters, men with long experience in both the restaurant and celebrity biz. The place will be glitzy, ritzy and trendy. Once the deal is formalized, you can expect the team's formidable public relations machinery to crank out releases at full capacity, and see them reprinted verbatim in the daily.

The proprietors are hoping to open by next January. No word yet on the restaurant's name.

Frank Talk: A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the wretched food at Bank One Ballpark. I heard from lots of readers, who almost unanimously shared my disappointment over the low quality and high prices.

One dissenting voice came from an executive with Scala's, the company that supplies BOB with Italian sausage. He disagreed with my judgment of his product: "If someone tried to sell this wimpy wiener in Jerry Colangelo's old neighborhood," I wrote, "he'd have his kneecaps broken. It has no discernible Italian flair, no punch or zest."

The exec explained that Scala's is in fact out of Chicago, that it has been in business for most of this century and that Jerry Colangelo liked the sausage. I promised to go back to the ballpark and give it another try.

I'm still not very impressed. Of course, some of the blame has to go to Restaura Inc., the food service operator. (It's a division of Viad Corporation, one of the Diamondbacks' owners.) How good can any sausage taste after it has been sitting in a metal tub for God knows how many innings, congealing and wrinkling?

I ordered the wiener at a "Grill" kiosk, where brats and Italian sausage were being grilled before my eyes. But, unfortunately, mine wasn't among them. I stand by my original assessment: This Italian sausage just doesn't have much ethnic flavor. Fennel, garlic, rosemary--it needs something.

Good Deed: On Wednesday, May 13, some 40 local restaurants will be donating a portion of their daily revenues to AIDS Project Arizona. This organization funds summer camps, hospice care and counseling for AIDS patients. Among the participating restaurants: C-Fu Gourmet, Lon's, Bamboo Club, ObaChine, Tarbell's, Orbit Cafe and Melting Pot.

But no restaurant is doing more than Durant's. The proprietors are donating 100 percent of the take, and the staffers are contributing their day's wages and tips. Durant's is at 2611 North Central. Call 264-5967.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel