Pot Luck

Crossfire from Tony's Christmas Massacre

Jonathan Honefenger is working as a waiter at Branch Water Tavern these days. Which is kind of odd, considering that he was one of the brightest new stars of the wine scene when he was hired away from Poscol by Tony Vallone a couple of months ago. His stint at Tony's restaurant was brief.

"Tony said I was burned out, that I had lost my passion," Honefenger said when he stopped by our table at Branch Water Tavern. Honefenger wasn't the only person who has been fired at Tony's lately. In what's being called "the Christmas Massacre," Chef Francesco Casetta got his walking papers too. Honefenger speculated that Vallone would save money by having lesser-paid assistants take over.

Tony Vallone responded that the partings took place some six weeks apart and were unrelated. He complained that Honefenger was badmouthing him "all over the blogs" with his nasty accusations. "To let somebody go over the holidays is not something I take lightly," Vallone said. "I let this young man go for some serious reasons -- very serious."

Honefenger's meteoric rise in the wine world began with a job at Brennan's under James Koonce that started shortly before Ike. Then he helped Da Marco design the wine list and buy the wines for Poscol and became the wine steward there when it opened last February. Tony's hired the hot young gun away in September. Honefenger was named one of the nation's 5 Best Young Sommeliers by Wine & Spirits magazine in its October issue.

"Oh well, there's a bright side -- a wine broker called me the other day and asked me if I was free to join him on a buying trip to France," Honefenger said. "And I said, 'Sure, why not?'"

Vallone said he wished people wrote about some the restaurant's new dishes instead of who got fired. I told him that Tiger Woods wished somebody would write about his putting, too.

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Robb Walsh
Contact: Robb Walsh