Welcome back to AM Intel, a Monday morning round-up of mini news bites to kick off the week.
Most of the Strega Restaurants Have Been Sold
Irish investment firm Danu Partners, which owns the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse chain (which is based in Boston), announced last week that it has acquired most of the Strega properties from Nick Varano’s restaurant group — Strega Waterfront, Strip by Strega, Strega Prime, several cafes, and a catering business. Danu will operate Smith & Wollensky and the new acquisitions under a new Medford-based subsidiary called PPX Hospitality Brands. Most of the Strega restaurants fall under the Italian steakhouse umbrella, so it’s not too surprising of a move for Smith & Wollensky’s parent company to branch out in this way.
Varano, meanwhile, will continue to operate his North End restaurants: Nico, Rina’s, and Strega North End, as well as Fratelli at Everett’s Encore casino, which Varano co-owns with another North End-based restaurateur, Frank DePasquale. Varano is known as a larger-than-life personality in the Boston restaurant scene, but this change might bring some peace and quiet to the restaurateur: “I have nothing in the wheelhouse right now,” Varano told Boston Magazine. “Just to spend some time with family and friends. Just have an espresso every morning and relax for a little while.”
The sold-off Strega restaurants will remain open during the ownership transition, and all employees are reportedly being given the opportunity to stay onboard. The owners are looking into the possibility of expansion — locally and beyond — for both Smith & Wollensky and the Strega brand. Locally, Smith & Wollensky currently has an Atlantic Wharf location and a Wellesley location. Its 15-year-old outpost in Back Bay’s iconic castle closed in summer 2018.
One of Boston’s best pastry chefs is on the move: Giselle Miller (Liquid Art House, Cafe Artscience) has left her latest posting at Menton to return to Deuxave, where she had previously worked from 2011 to 2014 and where she’ll be heading up the French fine-dining spot’s pastry and bread program.
“[Executive chef] Adrienne [Wright] and I are thrilled to welcome back one of our kitchen all-stars to the Deuxave culinary team,” said chef and co-owner Chris Coombs in a press release. “We saw her talent when she was just starting out and watched Giselle’s passion and drive grow ... Welcoming her back is like a family reunion.”
In other “chef shuffles” news, Barbara Lynch has named Lucas Sousa executive chef of the whole Barbara Lynch Collective, which includes Menton, Sportello, No. 9 Park, and more. Sousa was previously chef de cuisine for Menton, Sportello, and Drink but will now be overseeing all seven Barbara Lynch Collective venues.
“I have always admired Lucas’ effortless cooking technique and emphasis on educating his staff,” said Lynch in a press release. “His inherent ability to transform high-quality, seasonal ingredients into remarkable dishes, paired with his passion for mentoring aspiring chefs, is what made him the perfect person for this job.”
In Other News...
- Maura Healey, Massachusetts’ attorney general, has fined Chipotle $1.37 million for committing over 13,000 child labor violations, as well as other wage and hour law violations. It’s the largest child labor penalty a state has ever issued.
- The Bar Louie restaurant chain has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows for a reorganization of the business. Over three dozen locations closed recently, but CEO Tom Fricke reportedly said, via press release, that the company is focused on growth moving forward. There’s no indication that locations in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood or in Foxboro will be closing.
- Forthcoming pescatarian wine bar Dear Annie — in the works near Cambridge’s Porter Square — is a step closer to opening, having received approval for its food and drink licenses (as well as overwhelming community support).
- This birthday cake is so very Boston.
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