Romano Flies Solo

Restaurant creator Phil Romano has shed his Eatzi's partner. Restaurant Giant Brinker International (Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Maggiano's, Big Bowl) announced it would divest its interest in Eatzi's and sell its share to an investment group led by Romano. "[T]he Eatzi's transaction will allow us to concentrate on our core business and allow Phil Romano and his team to expand Eatzi's," said Brinker Chairman and CEO Ron McDougall in a prepared statement. Romano says he intends to spread up to seven more Eatzi's in the Dallas area beginning with South Lake and Plano, as well as develop smaller Eatzi's units to be fed by a large central kitchen. Joined since the gourmet food boutique opened in 1996, Romano and Brinker launched six Eatzi's in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, New York and Rockville, Maryland. But the New York units in Manhattan and Long Island were dismal failures, forcing the scuttling of nascent Eatzi's in Boston and San Diego. Brinker says the Eatzi's divestiture resulted in a $5.8 million hit to its bottom line.

Despite denying a heap of rumors that her restaurant was up for bidding, City Café founder Mardi Schma has sold her 17-year-old operation to Karim Alaoui, former general manager of Lombardi Mare (as well as one-time GM for the defunct Bistro A, the defunct Venus Steakhouse & Supper Club, Mediterraneo and the defunct Toscana), and partner Paula Bruton, former catering director at Lombardi Mare. Alaoui says he has been sniffing around Dallas for a restaurant for the past nine months. "Mardi had different [potential] buyers, and she was basically looking for the right people," Alaoui says. "I spent a lot of time with her...and you know she liked me very much. She made her choice." Alaoui, who says Schma has since relocated to St. Helena in California's Napa Valley, will take on the role of general manager...Rocco's, the New York-style pizzeria launched by Franki Carabetta and partners Ed and Michael Ruibal, operators of Landscape Systems of Texas, has been sold to Majed Khalaf, owner of Milano's Pizza in Seagoville. Carabetta and the Ruibals still operate McKinney Avenue Tavern and Corner Bar, also on McKinney. Khalaf says he plans to juice up Rocco's pizza and pasta fare with meat: Philly cheese steak sandwiches, Stromboli and steaks...Geode, the global tapas bar installed in the former Bistral space on McKinney Avenue in the spring, has shut down. Also succumbing to the McKinney Avenue death aura is the Scented Geranium, the Vietnamese restaurant that settled in the large space once inhabited by Chihuahua Charlie's.


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