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Where's Marco?

After seven years in business, restaurateur Marco Rossi closed his popular Villa D'Estes in Little Italy last December to relocate to bigger, more trendy digs in downtown's Warehouse District. Last spring, along with business partner Gene Zannoni, he took over 8,000 square feet on the ground floor of the historic Otis Building, at the corner of St. Clair Avenue and West Ninth Street, and began massive remodeling for his new restaurant, Chirco, and bar, Zibibbo. In a phone interview last month, an enthusiastic Rossi said the contemporary Italian restaurant's grand opening was set for November 6. However, efforts to reach him last week yielded news that Rossi is no longer involved in the project. Zannoni says he is unaware of Rossi's whereabouts and characterizes their split as "a mutual decision." Other insiders express surprise that the restaurateur would walk away from a project so dear to his heart; some rumors even have Rossi leaving the country. Zannoni says the opening has been delayed indefinitely, but a visit to the site indicates that construction continues. The cavernous space's ultra-contemporary decor is done up in neon blue, chartreuse, purple, and orange, with massive orange floor lamps, fiber-optic-rigged glass walls, and a gorgeous bar top of luminous blue-pearl granite. Maybe someone wanted checkered tablecloths and Chianti bottles?

The French connection . . . Johnny's Downtown and Johnny's Bar owners Joe Santosuosso and Paul Anthony, and Executive Chef Vid Lutz, are expanding on the Warehouse District's international dining theme with their new Bistro St. Roche, an authentic French-style bistro taking shape on West Sixth Street, next door to Johnny's Downtown. The intimate, upscale dinner-only spot will seat sixty in the main dining room, with space for forty more in a cozy, fireplace-equipped private room in the back. The decor promises to be luxurious, with Jerusalem sandstone flooring in the lobby, a baby grand piano in the cocktail area, and plenty of French antique-pine furnishings throughout. But the most fascinating piece of furniture will no doubt be the Chef's Table, adjacent to the center-island kitchen, where up to eight diners can talk directly with the chefs and watch and sample while their dinners (and everybody else's, for that matter) are being prepared. Lutz honed his French technique in the small town of Mougins, north of Cannes, this summer, under the tutelage of renowned chef Roger Verge. Verge is the proprietor of the famous Moulin de Mougins and is the master of modern French "Cuisine du Soleil." New England Culinary School grad Darren Eads has been hired as head chef for the bistro, which Santosuosso says he hopes to open by the end of the month. Call Johnny's Downtown, 216-623-0055 for information or reservations.

Like a rolling stone . . . Baker Tatyana "Tanya" Rehn and her husband John Emerman, owners of the Stone Oven, 2245 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, are opening a second café and bakery in the downtown Galleria food court. The new spot, in the space formerly occupied by Big Sky Bakery, is scheduled to be up and running by the end of the month and will offer the same selection of fresh breads, soups, sandwiches, and pastries that are available at the Lee Road location. Rehn and Emerman's fine breads are also featured at area restaurants like Kosta's, Moxie, Lockkeeper's Inn, and Sammy's.

Tips are encouraged. Contact Elaine T. Cicora at ecicora@clevescene.com.

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