Tips are encouraged. Contact Elaine T. Cicora at elaine.cicora@aol.com.

Side Dish 

Welcome to His Nightmare

Right on the heels of the closure of the Diamondback Brewery and Pete and Dewey's Planet comes word of another eatery with hopes of capitalizing on area sports fans. Management for Alice Cooper'stown -- "Where jocks and rock meet" -- recently announced it has leased 12,000 square feet of space at 811 Prospect Avenue in the Gateway area and hopes to open a $3 million "Hard Rock Café meets the House of Blues in a sports bar"-type facility there by late summer. The first Cooper'stown, a joint production of Cooper, managing partner Brian Weymouth, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson, and several Arizona investors, opened in Phoenix in December 1998, and in addition to the Cleveland plans, which have been in development since May, negotiations are under way for spots in Denver, Detroit, and Anaheim. The restaurant/bar's attractions include a large, moderately priced menu of BBQ, burgers, and homey favorites like meatloaf, as well as plenty of booze, state-of-the-art video and sound systems, live performances, rock and roll memorabilia, and the opportunity to buy T-shirts and temporary tattoos with the Cooper'stown logo. Weymouth says he'll be looking for Cleveland sports figures and celebs to partner up with him and Alice in the coming months, so start polishing up that résumé . . .

Small world of hurt . . . Food fans can only hope that the rapid-fire thrills and spills at Piccolo Mondo (1352 West Sixth Street) are winding down this week, as new owners Joe Saccone (co-owner of the Hyde Park restaurant group) and Ted Saley tighten up the reins. As slipped by us last week, PM's former owner Carl Quagliata and manager Giuseppe O'Connell fired executive chef Todd Stein just hours before the new owners were to take over, in an alleged dispute over Stein's job-search activities. Although there are bitter feelings on both sides -- Quagliata declined all comment, but some of the restaurant staff weren't so tight-lipped -- Saccone says that, although Stein won't be coming back, it's not because of any problems over his creative direction. Still, changes are in store. "We bought this restaurant for two reasons," Saccone said last week. "One, it is a tremendous location, and two, it represents a type of cuisine we wanted to get into." Over the course of the next 30 to 45 days, Hyde Park's corporate chefs, Terry Hargis and Charlie Saccardi, are planning to take the restaurant's menu back to its original "contemporary Italian" identity, from which it strayed over the past year as a result of Chicagoan Stein's fresh -- and, from this vantage point, very welcome -- ideas. And it will certainly be interesting to see how this new-old concept flies in the Warehouse District right now, given the explosive debut of the multimillion-dollar, contemporary-Italian Circo, just down the street from PM. One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that the restaurant is "tired." "People want to go to the newest spot," observed O'Connell, "and this isn't it anymore." In addition to menu changes, Saccone's plans include interior upgrades and renovations, and possible relocation of the attached market/deli. Former sous chef Patrick McNamara is filling the exec-chef sabots in the interim. As for Stein, word is that he is committed to remaining in Cleveland and is pursuing several high-profile job alternatives.

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