Life After Leno
Shades of The Truman Show: Imagine waking up one morning to find Jay Leno mentioned you the night before. That's exactly what happened to local restaurateur John Crapitto back in April. Leno displayed a blown-up copy of the advertisement for his restaurant Crapitto's (2400 Mid Lane, 961-1161) and -- of course -- poked fun at the name.

"Hey, I don't mind," says the good-natured pokee. "Every little bit helps. I got hundreds of calls after that show, and people still talk about it."

Crapitto capitalized on the resulting surge of curious customers by promoting his recently added lunch service. He reports that he's getting "a whole lot of suits, both men and women" from nearby office buildings for his midday salad and other light Italianate offerings, such as pasta alla sposa.

Interestingly, says Crapitto, these new customers have turned out to be from the cholesterol-be-damned school, loading the otherwise healthy salads with bushels of fried chicken strips and gallons of honey Dijon dressing, and consuming "quite a bit of alcohol." They're also lingering over their meals; he reports that the lunch crowd starts at 11:30 a.m. and hasn't cleared by the 2:30 p.m. closing time.

Let's (Not?) Do Lunch
Crapitto's findings run counter to those of certain other restaurateurs, who hold that lunchtime just ain't worth the trouble. Witness last week's announcement from Charlie Watkins at the Sierra Grill (4704 Montrose, 942-7757), who's discontinued his midday service to all but private and corporate parties. And it seems that several of the patriarchal bastions of the three-martini lunch have crumbled lately: Neither Tony's (1801 Post Oak, 662-6778) nor Vallone's (2811 Kirby, 526-2811) serves at noon, nor even Ruth's Chris (6213 Richmond, 789-2333), the steak house that the oil field built.

Ah, well, you can still find a genteel oasis or two to hide out from the noonday sun. "Lunchtime is absolutely fabulous for us," says Tony Rao of the River Oaks Grill (2630 Westheimer, 520-1738). He restarted day service in April, noting that his Westheimer-Kirby intersection is a "power location" conveniently halfway between the Galleria and downtown. Since chef Michelle LeBleu worked up a new menu, he's seeing as many businesswomen as businessmen who lunch.

And just up the street from Sierra, La Colombe d'Or (3410 Montrose, 524-7999) is doing a gangbuster daytime business. Receptionist Jo Anne Alvarado points out that the restaurant still (emphatically) requires reservations for lunch, a time when men linger over cigars and port, and "mostly the women" sip martinis. "They sit here all afternoon," she says. "Just enjoying the conversation."

-- Margaret L. Briggs


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