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The Scoop on Ruppe
Houston gourmands have been watching 3939 Montrose, the space formerly occupied by Monica Pope's Quilted Toque. Earmarked for Tony Ruppe's new bistro more than a year ago, the room has remained shuttered as the opening date slid from early to mid- to late summer. Now it appears that patience will be rewarded as Tony Ruppe's Restaurant is slated for a late November opening. "And that's firm," says Ruppe's wife, Kathi.

What took so long? After all, Tony Ruppe turned over his toque at the Four Seasons Hotel's De Ville 18 months ago.

"Unless you've been through it yourself, you wouldn't believe the problems involved in opening a new restaurant," says Kathi. The difficulties began with the architect's drawings, which, Tony says tersely, were "unbuildable." Meetings and re-drawings took months; the architect and the Ruppes finally parted company under less than amicable terms. The steel fabrication also took a surprisingly long time, notes Tony, who now sounds as knowledgeable as any contractor. "Yeah, I'm thinking about a career change," he laughs darkly.

The clock started running on their 10-year lease in August. Then came the battle of the elevator.

The Ruppes originally envisioned two dining areas in the upstairs loft: one open, one private, with a wall to divide the two. City code requires an elevator for access to the second story -- to the tune of $40,000 or so -- if the upstairs space is more than one-third of the ground-level square footage. The architect had drawn the loft 200 square feet over the limit. ("I've never been so close to strangling someone," says Tony.) After weeks of more meetings, they hit upon a compromise: the Ruppes would remove the wall, and the city would let them off the hook for the elevator.

The delays gave the Ruppes plenty of time to mull the restaurant's name, menu and color scheme.

"We thought about calling it Ruppe's Place," says Kathi. "But our friends thought that sounded too much like a bar and grill. And we knew we couldn't call it Tony's or Anthony's -- not in this town!"

The menu Tony planned a year and a half ago has been streamlined. Then, he was "still thinking on the grand hotel scale, as if he'd have a staff of 60," says Kathi. Look for lots of seafood, some game perhaps, and certainly pastas.

The wine cellar will focus on California wines, Kathi says, "really awesome" vintages from boutique wineries. Those wines inspired the color palette she chose: soft yellow gold, muted sage greens and plums. "The architect kept pushing gray, black and silver," says Kathi. "That is so not us! But it's our baby now."

--Margaret L. Briggs

 
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