When Kenyon Price rhapsodizes about Isabella's, his new Italian restaurant set to spring from Stonebriar Commons in Frisco, he speaks as though it were an actual lady. "She's well-traveled. Her homes are in Lombardy, Veneto and Tuscany. She's a very forward-thinking Italian," he says of the restaurant allegedly conceived in the likeness of a close personal friend. Hmmm. What does that mean? "You will find what I would say tension," he says, "between the modern lifestyle and the traditional lifestyle." Go on. It means classic Italian architecture notes such as vaulted ceilings coupled with modern touches in the bar, he says. It means classic dishes with modern twists. It means wine flows from Italy but also from California and "exotic" places such as South America and Washington. It means a music mix ranging from operatic crooner Andrea Bocelli to "kick-ass Italian pop" from Carmen Consoli. It means expansion. To bring Isabella's to life, Price, a former executive with Sfuzzi's, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, has teamed up with Sfuzzi alum Craig Vaught to plant the first Isabella's for roughly $750,000. They plan to clone up to 15 of her in spots all over including Uptown, Southlake, Austin and Newport Beach, California (1 percent pieces of Isabella are currently available for $15,000). Food? Price says he's pulling in an executive chef from Piedmont, while chef Rex Turner (Cafe Toulouse, Nick & Sam's) will handle the lady's sous obligations.
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Mike Chen is packing it in. "It's a mess," he says of Standard Restaurant's dining room. After backing chef Tim Byres to bring the former Deep Ellum restaurant to Uptown early last year, Chen closed the restaurant several days ago after dining room sales tumbled some 50 percent in recent months. This is the second concept fizzle (the first was Stolik) for Chen in this former Martini Ranch spot, and he's in no mood to try again. He blames Standard's demise on a neighborhood/concept mismatch. "Not too many people were crazy about the food," he deadpans...It doesn't seem like a name to tickle the easily intimidated. Nevertheless Sigel's new concept will most likely be stamped Sigel's Elite. "We want to try and bring the Sigel's experience up a notch," says the liquor retailer's John Rector. Sigel's Elite will start with two locations: a 4,000-square-foot unit in The Shops at Legacy (Phase 2) set to open before Thanksgiving, and a 14,000-square-foot footprint at Fitzhugh and Cole in the former CityHomes sales center set to hit before Christmas. The stores will feature dedicated classroom space (watch out, Tony's), an aggressive tasting program, specialty cheeses and maybe prime beef, with the Dallas version featuring a rare spirits room.