The prodigal chef returns. Hang on to your Caribbean Cowboy hats, boys and girls -- Johnny Vinczencz has reclaimed his place in the kitchen at Astor Place. The chef decided to sign on again when he and his investor couldn't find an appropriate South Beach location for their dream eatery. In other words too many deals fell through. Johnny V's reappearance at the Astor signals the end of the association between proprietor Karim Masri and consulting chef Norman Van Aken, and Johnny V warns not to expect any Normanisms to remain. Instead he'll be reintroducing some favorite items from the Astor's glory days, including the short stack of wild-mushroom pancakes, and playing around with new dishes as well. It remains to be seen just how Johnny V's reversion will affect the Astor's status on the scene.
•It usually happens the other way around, but this time it looks as though New York will be getting a taste of Miami. Make that a prime taste. The China Grill-owned Tuscan Steak will be hawking its beef on the corner of Third Avenue and 40th Street in Manhattan come October, and Red Square, which hasn't signed off on its site yet, will also open doors in the Big Apple by the end of the year. The NYC location will be Tuscan's second and Red Square's third, since Red Square II currently is making good on its gamble in Las Vegas.
•Look for Macaluso's to seek status during the summer. Shawn Lewis, a SoBe man about town with more money than a dot.com millionaire, has invested in the restaurant because, apparently, he likes the meatballs. With Lewis's help, the eatery has taken over the neighboring space formerly occupied by a florist, and will be expanding into a lounge. Lewis also has provided capital to the Living Room and the G-Spot, and he's building a bar/club called Joe Black's Bar and Grill in the old Jam's space on Washington Avenue. But his immediate concern seems to be just how much he can spend on his upcoming nuptials. So far the bill is rumored to total $1.2 million. Easy to see why, when the invitations, written like a romantic novel in a leather-bound book, were hand-delivered by English pages dressed from the 1800s (like being served a subpoena by a movie extra). In addition the orchestra will be seated in chairs that actually hang from the trees, a boys' choir and the waitstaff will be clad in period Renaissance Italian costumes, and Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin will be officiating. Perhaps he'll take the opportunity to hand the groom a key to the city, which will at least be one less thing Lewis will have to buy.
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•Kvetch: No question I adore the beef at Parrilla del Polo, the new Argentine steak house on Lincoln Road (west) where the waiters wear polo uniforms. What I'm not fond of? The three-dollar iced teas -- about one-fourth the price of the skirt steak. To add insult to injury, the staff charged us for refills, too. So the nonalcoholic drink bill for one of my guests totaled half the cost of the steak, and hey, he left thirsty.
Send your tasty tidbits to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Or e-mail Kavetchnik@aol.com