Openings & Closings

As mentioned earlier this week, the latest Tony Vallone outfit -- Caffe Bello (322 Westheimer) -- has finally opened in the old La Strada location in Montrose. Early indications are that the fabulous pizzettas are the restaurant's strong point, with overbearing service as a problem issue. Luckily, that's something that can be easily resolved given more time, and Caffe Bello won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Over in the Heights, area residents have finally had to admit that Jazzie's Cafe, home of some of Houston's best po-boys, is never coming back. Why? Because Gatlin's BBQ (1221 W. 19th Street) opened in the old Jazzie's location earlier this week. I stopped by this afternoon and fell in love with the pulled pork and dirty rice (as well as the "one big happy family" vibe in the restaurant), but return visits are definitely in order -- I have to see what kind of smoker the Gatlins are using to get that thick char on their luscious pork ribs.

From our friend Marc Borel, we hear that the Samba Grille (530 Texas St.) is coming along nicely and should be open soon. Borel, recently of 13 Celsius, is the newly hired wine manager for the restaurant and is in the process of putting together what will likely be a phenomenal wine list. Samba Grille, which is located in the spot formerly occupied by Vin, knows that catering to a Theater District crowd comes with a distinct set of responsibilities and priorities, so expect the dinner service there to be incredibly efficient and quick, but delicious and elegant at the same time.

And speaking of wine manager moves, the former wine manager at downtown steakhouse Vic & Anthony's -- the popular Justin Vann -- will be managing a very different sort of wine operation in his new job at Central Market's wine manager. We wish them both the best of luck in their new positions.

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