After nearly a year of collecting dust while its rows of fountain jets squirt decoratively in front of the for-lease sign, the space that was once Mediterraneo at the Quadrangle before it was PoPoLos at the Quadrangle, which before that was J. Pepe's, has a new tenant. Ruggeri's Restaurant is skipping from its Routh Street location, a space it has occupied since 1985, to the Quadrangle across the street. "We're going to try to make it more of our original look...with a lot of brick, to keep it warm, homey," says Tom Ruggeri, who operates two other Ruggeri's restaurants in Plano and Addison. To that end, Ruggeri says Mediterraneo's chic veneer, with cobalt and azure touches blended with ash and cherry-wood accents, will be downscaled a little to help those bricks achieve that homey aura. The Quad version, set to open at the end of September or in early October, will retain the same Northern Italian menu with a modest injection of new items. Plus, Ruggeri's trademark grand piano will be dollied across the street once the mortar sets.
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It's not often that Bonny Doon Vineyard founder Randall Grahm battens down his ponytail and trundles from Santa Cruz, California, into Dallas. But he did early last week to mate Marc Cassel's cuisine with his eclectic klatch of enjoyably drinkable wines at the Green Room. More than wine, Grahm poured lots of wine-geek impiety. He railed against oak. "Oak is a condiment, not a food group," he said. "The same people who think oak is a food group are the same ones who think ketchup is a vegetable." Which puts a good chunk of the California wine industry in Ronald Reagan's gustatory camp. Grahm railed against wine lists. He told how the wait staff at his friend's San Francisco restaurant recoiled in horror after he restructured the wine list by, among other things, inserting a page with a chardonnay heading that was completely blank. Instead, he suggested the list would be "all Riesling, all the time," which, come to think of it, might work in Deep Ellum (Bonny Doon's Critique of Pure Riesling is a nice tight floral/honey drink). Then he railed against construction costs as he announced his new winery in downtown Santa Cruz. "Construction will be ruinous," he said. "I'll be directing winemaking from debtors prison, I'm sure." What Grahm didn't rail against was boxed wines. When a smart-assed dinner guest asked him if he ever considered making a bag-in-the-box wine, Grahm admitted that yes, as a matter of fact, he had. He was thinking of boxing Big House Red, the value-price amalgam of Mediterranean red varieties that in large part are harvested from a vineyard that goes right up to the walls of a jail, hence the name. But the project hit a snag when he couldn't come up with a cost-effective way to craft a box that resembles a prison, a project that becomes even more problematic when coordinated from debtors prison.