'Who'd've thunk it was that big a deal?" Michael Symon says of the buzz created by news he was moving his Lola downtown to East Fourth Street. If you've been in a spiderhole, Lola Bistro will close early in April, then reopen in May as Lolita. Co-chefs John Seeholzer and John Sawyer will oversee Lolita's Greek and Italian menu (Symon says he's been dying to offer the cuisine of his mother's heritage, the food he grew up on). The new Lola will debut in October with an open kitchen, a chef's table and a glass-encased wine "cellar" in the dining room that will allow its list to grow from 400 labels to about 700.
Symon's been approached "a million times" over the years about moving or opening additional operations, but only recently did the timing click. So he's formed a partnership â€” Symon Says â€” with his wife, Liz Shanahan, and Doug Petkovic, owner of Theory. The combo of Lola, Lolita and Theory creates buying power to compete on price with the chains. For a start, the Theory menu will add a 25-item raw bar and more sides. Symon and Theory chef Tim Bando â€” Symon's sous chef years ago at the old Caxton CafÃ© â€” will expand the eatery's foundation of beef to include different cuts and styles (organic corn-fed, organic grass-fed, Kobe).
To go out in style, Lola's menu for its final weeks will offer signature faves from its 8-year history, including "Slash-and-Burn Grouper" and "Fred Flintstone."
Lockkeepers offers two wine tastings this month: "Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris" March 4 ($15) and "Chardonnay and Riesling" March 18($20). Call (216) 524-9404.
Budapest Blonde in Independence will host a "Martini Madness" tasting with appetizers March 23 at 7 p.m. Cost is $30 and prepaid registration is required. Call (440) 237-0292.
On March 15, support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at its seventh-annual Chef's Fantasy at the Union Club downtown. Some of the area's top chefs will be on hand, including Tim Bando of Theory, Matt Barnes from Saucy Bistro, Donna Chriszt of NINE bistro, Brandt Evans from Blue Canyon and Roger Thomas of Piatto. A special wine tasting will precede cocktails and dinner. Call (216) 382-8295 for more details.
At a mid-December fund-raiser by Tremont-area restaurants, 300 diners raised $20,000 toward the restoration of Grumpy's CafÃ© after a fire devastated the eatery last year. At press time, co-owner Kathy Owad said removal of debris was just beginning and she was hopeful of a late-spring reopening.
Corbo's Golden Bowl in Little Italy has closed as a restaurant after eight years, with plans to reopen as Club Corbo this spring.
Michele Gaw, formerly chef of the late Watermark Restaurant, has opened Simply Done Dinners, a meal-assembly service in Parma. Customers select 12 entrees from Gaw's menu on the Simply Done Web site (www.simplydonedinners.com), then book a two-hour assembly session at Simply Done's professional kitchen and fashion the meals in their own dishes and pans from prepared ingredients. At the end, customers have a dozen meals to pull from the freezer for a "from-scratch" home dinner.
Northeast Ohio's second BRAVO! Cucina Italiana is slated to open March 22 in Mentor, at 7787 Reynolds Road.
Donna Chriszt's (NINE bistro) "Italian Heartland" cooking demo class, originally slated for Jan. 10 but canceled due to a flood, is rescheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. March 7 at Solari in Rocky River. Call (440) 333-9600.
Vinea Wine Bar, The Business Center Cleveland, 1220 Huron Road, Cleveland, (216) 522-1220
Pickle Bill's Lobster House, 14810 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; Taqueria Guadalajara, 12926 Lorain Ave., Cleveland