Nick Keppler
Up in smoke.

Who Burned the Lasagna?

After more than 25 years as Houston's one-stop shop for cheery entertainment and gourmet lasagna, the Great Caruso Dinner Theater went up in smoke yesterday -- and general manager Vassili Magazis says arson could be to blame.

Houston Fire Department District Chief Tommy Dowdy confirmed that a fire started within the building at about 6 a.m., when the business was closed. The Caruso, which sat at 10001 Westheimer, was gutted quickly, and buildings nearby suffered smoke damage.

Oddly enough, an empty building that once housed Molina's Mexican Restaurant a few blocks away on Westheimer also burnt up several hours earlier. Dowdy was tight-lipped, saying an arson investigation is pending. If the HFD thinks the two fires are linked, they didn't say so -- at least not to us.

And who would want to torch the Great Caruso? "I am absolutely clueless," says Magazis.

The Great Caruso's Web site gives little information (other than a perhaps unnecessary "we will be closed for the foreseeable future"), but Magazis said the dinner theater hopes to rebuild at the same location. Because all reservation lists were burnt, he's trying to get a hold of anyone who made holiday plans there.

It's not just the diners and theater-goers who will be affected, either. Exactly two weeks before Christmas, Houston suddenly has a lot more unemployed actors on its hands. — Nick Keppler

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