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Serving Up Hope 

Northeast Ohio restaurants unite for a N.Y.C. relief benefit.

Join diners across the nation October 11 by stopping for a meal at your favorite restaurant and supporting the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. The event, which will provide direct assistance to families of restaurant employees lost in last month's attacks on the World Trade Center, was organized by Windows on the World owner David Emil and Executive Chef Michael Lomonaco. Cleveland publicist Marianne Frantz, a former New Yorker whose accounts included the famous restaurant on the top floor of the north tower, has been the local organizer. More than 500 Northeast Ohio restaurants were invited to sign on, and confirmed participants include downtown's Sans Souci and all Johnny's locations; Fire and Sergio's on the East Side; Mojo and Mise on the West Side; Vermilion's Chez Francois; and Piatto and LeFever's in the Akron area. (A complete list of participants can be found here.) Restaurants will donate at least 10 percent of the day's revenues to the fund.

Want to do more? Wednesday, October 17, brings another opportunity to help. Ten of the city's top chefs will join forces to cook up a six-course extravaganza with matching wines that night at Circo/Zibibbo (1300 West Ninth Street in the Warehouse District), with every red cent going to Windows of Hope. The $150, tax-deductible feast begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails; dinner follows at 7. Chefs joining Circo's Matt Gambatese are Michael Symon (Lola), Paul Minnillo (Baricelli Inn), Karen Small (Flying Fig), Jon Bennett (Moxie), Michael Herschman (Mojo), Michael Longo (Market Square Bistro), Tim Bando (Blake's), Carl Quagliata (Giovanni's), and Ron Seballos (Seballos Pastries). The event is expected to raise nearly $35,000. Tickets have been going fast. If any remain, you can snag 'em by calling 216-651-4486.

STAR attraction . . .

Gary Lucarelli's newest restaurant, STAR (1515 Euclid Avenue; 216-621-8777), opened Tuesday on Playhouse Square. The name is an acronym for Sweetwater's Theatre Arts Restaurant, and the STAR treatment comes complete with pre- and post-show entertainment, performing waiters, and a menu of American favorites. Odell Boone, a 13-year veteran of Lucarelli's Café Sausalito, is chef; professional ballroom dancer and front-of-the-house man Tony D'Angelo is GM. STAR serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday; weekday lunches begin next Monday.

Grumpy Gourmet . . .

When Gourmet magazine's operative zipped into town in mid-June, her mission was to find out which, "if any," of Cleveburg's restaurants were worthy of being featured as Best in the Nation in the magazine's annual October restaurant issue. Among the joints that fell under her microscope were Lola, OZ, the Baricelli Inn, and Parker's. The restaurant issue is out now, and Parker's (ranked 30th out of the top 50) and Baricelli (40th) made the cut. Chef-owner Parker Bosley got the nod for his integrity and focus; Baricelli boss Paul Minnillo was singled out for his "vibrant, perfectionistic" style. During a friendly debriefing, the critic said that she had been duly impressed by the soothing decor at OZ and loved chef-owner Donna Chriszt's chicken paprikash. (However, editors eventually decided to narrow the competition to places that had been in business for at least two years, taking young OZ out of the running.) As for Lola? Surprisingly, the critic was dismissive, opining that the local favorite was "too dark" and "too noisy" to be taken seriously.

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