Like Tristan Simon with his symbiotic Henderson Avenue empire, restaurant concept baron Phil Romano and his Nick & Sam's sidekick Joe Palladino seem bitten by the hub-and-spoke bug. Just after opening the semiprivate nightclub Medici two weeks ago, the pair is sewing up a joint venture with Fernando and Gino Masci, founders of Il Mulino, the highly successful home-style Italian restaurant focusing on the cuisine of the Abruzzi region that opened in New York's Greenwich Village in 1981. They'll plug it in the former Casa Dominguez space on Cedar Springs Road next February, within walking distance of Medici. The 6,000-square-foot, 180-seat restaurant serving gargantuan portions will be a feeder for Medici, pumping up the private guest list with the evening's dining guests, just as Nick & Sam's currently does. "Tristan and his group have got that area down there [Henderson Avenue], and I'm trying to monopolize the Uptown area with Philip," Palladino says. Yet this is not just an Uptown empire. Palladino says that as part of the joint venture with the Masci brothers, he and Romano will be partners in Il Mulino restaurants planned for other U.S. cities, beginning with Las Vegas.
Shannon Wynne, operator of 8.0, Flying Saucer and Flying Fish, says he's working on a project with Dallas restaurateur Monica Greene to install a version of her Pegaso restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas, next April. Under the deal, Wynne will design and build the restaurant while Greene will craft the menu and run operations. Wynne also says he's set to open a Flying Fish in Preston Center, this just after he sold the Addison Flying Fish to a private operator. He adds he was forced to shut down his Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Arlington after getting seared from the competitive heat generated by Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill, a huge bar concept Wynne calls Bar-Mart...After spending the past couple of years consulting (Dragonfly, Gaylord Opryland Texas), celebrity chef Stephan Pyles says he's ready to take advantage of the current commercial real estate market trough and the approaching economic upturn to open a new restaurant. The new concept, which should open sometime within the next 12 months, will be small, moderately priced, refined and feature Nuevo South American cuisine. Meanwhile, the new owners of the defunct Star Canyon in the Venetian Las Vegas reopened the restaurant with a peculiar name: AquaKnox, complete with a "wine waterfall" featuring a tower of bottles surrounded by cascading water. "AquaKnox only made sense on Knox Street," Pyles insists. "They could have opened it as AquaVegas or something."