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Bad Food for Thought

The recent demise of Gateway's Diamondback Brewery and Pete and Dewey's Planet has drawn plenty of comment from the local media, most of which centers on hand-wringing over our sports teams' inability to attract enough fans to keep all the Gateway restaurants in the black. Overlooked among the boo-hooing is one important fact: Neither of these two failed operations served up particularly good food. Bottom line? Any eatery that thinks it can get by forever on brisk beer sales and its proximity to sports or entertainment venues, even in the absence of well-prepared and reasonably priced meals, is guilty of profound cynicism. And the passing of such places seems to indicate that there is a limit to how much of such nonsense diners -- even if they are sports fans, too -- are willing to endure.

Mondo surprises . . . Staffers at Piccolo Mondo (1352 West Sixth Street) were still reeling last week over owner Carl Quagliata's decision to sell the restaurant to Hyde Park co-owner Joe Saccone and building owner Ted Saley. "Isn't it something?" gasped one insider. "We didn't even know this was happening until last Sunday." Staffers have been told that business will continue as usual, with the same menu and with Executive Chef Todd Stein remaining at the helm. But, as one employee noted, folks don't generally buy a restaurant unless they have an itch to put their own mark on it . . . Meanwhile, Quagliata has closed Posto Vecchio, his Italian American bistro in Great Northern Mall. Brother John Quagliata pulled no punches when reached for comment at the family business office. "We closed it because we weren't getting enough customers," he said. "It's a shame, because we sank a lot of money into that place." The closing put nearly 45 employees out of work, although former Executive Chef Dean DiLuciano (previously of Classics) has resurfaced in the kitchen of Severance: The Restaurant. Besides Piccolo Mondo, Quagliata owns Tuscany and is partial owner of Giovanni's and Tuscany 55. The hard-working restaurateur has been in the industry since 1967. As far as anyone can recall, this is the first time a Quagliata enterprise has failed.

Vino obscura . . . Todd Thompson, assistant manager at Lakewood's Pier W (12700 Lake Avenue), knows wine. After all, his studies began right in his own backyard, at the Grand River Winery, where he happily toiled in the vineyards as a youth. After college, he landed a gig as dining room manager and wine buyer for Parker's, then moved on to the retail realm at Hinman's in Rocky River. The enthusiastic oenophile now hopes to share his knowledge through two upcoming wine courses at the waterfront restaurant. On Monday, February 7, Thompson will introduce participants to some relatively obscure, inexpensive, but intriguing wines from around the world, including little-known bargains from southern France, Chile, and Australia. The next night, Thompson will guide students through a selection of "Wines for Romance," with a focus on champagnes and big reds. Thompson's own choice for Valentine's Day sipping? "A luscious, fruity Italian red, like a Dolcetto," he bubbles. Each $12 class begins at 7 p.m. and includes light refreshments. Call 216-228-2250 to reserve a space.

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