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Dead dogs lie

Former Sipango chef Matthew Antonovich opened his new restaurant, Antonovich's Tuscan Steak House, after channeling advice from his dead grandmother. Now he's shutting the thing down with thoughts of dead dogs in his head. "This restaurant cannot afford its debt," he said just before he closed this past Saturday night after just five weeks in business. "It's like a dog that gets hit by a car. You put it down." Only what struck Antonovich's with a fatal thud wasn't a rusty Pinto. It was a $650,000-plus wad of debt he assumed and tried to swallow after he fetched Ricardo's Restaurante Mexicano from Richard Galvan to launch the restaurant bearing Antonovich's name. But dead dogs don't lie for long. Immediately after shutting down, Antonovich split for Tuscany, Italy, for a monthlong respite. When he returns, he plans to open a new restaurant in the same location called Antonovich's Tuscan Steak House and Grill. Antonovich plans to wiggle out from under his fiduciary predicament and regenerate by dissolving his current restaurant and launching a new venture with a clean, debt-free slate in the same location, all without declaring bankruptcy, he insists. Antonovich claims his new operation will be employee-owned with backing from fresh investors and banks. He'll be an employee, he says, taking a consulting fee with an option to purchase the operation. If negotiations falter over leasing his current space, he says he'll open his restaurant across the street. Either way, he vows to reopen by September 1.

Mixed hash

Fish has a new head. Former Gershwin's Bar & Grill executive chef George Grieser will take over the kitchen of the downtown seafood restaurant this week. It seems his deal at Jakes Seafood & Steaks on the shores of Lake Austin, the place for which he left Gershwin's, was a real floater. After sales fell far short of projections, the upscale menu was downgraded...Two new Cool River Cafés are set to sprout: one in Denver in the heart of the city's Tech Center, and one in Austin. At 19,000 square feet, the Denver location will go into a new mall slot with a big copper dome. "We might look a little like III Forks on top," says Gene Street, president of Consolidated Restaurant Cos., Cool River's owner. Groundbreaking is set for August 1 for the Austin location, which at 25,000 square feet will be bigger than both the Denver and Los Colinas locations. "We're building a bigger river that doesn't look so faux," Street adds. No trout, though: The water is chlorinated.


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