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'The Restaurant' no more -- Jeffrey Chodorow closes Rocco's on 22nd Street


By Wade Paulsen, 09/21/2004 

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

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Rocco's on 22nd Street, the restaurant that had its opening and subsequent infighting featured in the two seasons of NBC's reality show The Restaurant, closed its doors for the last time on Wednesday, September 15.

The closing took place after a New York state court ruled in late July that China Grill Management LLC, the company run by financier (and convicted felon) Jeffrey Chodorow, could close Rocco's on 22nd Street due to its financial problems, despite celebrity chef and namesake Rocco DiSpirito's ownership interest.

The closing comes as little surprise after the spite-filled battle between Chodorow and Rocco, which apparently destroyed the eatery's continuing business. A Minneapolis Star-Tribune story in early August noted that Rocco's on 22nd Street was serving a limited menu and had lots of empty seats.

The Star-Tribune story also noted that Chodorow had rehired Tony, the chef personally fired by Rocco in the final episode of The Restaurant 2, which was filmed in February -- and that Tony was telling customers, including the 6-year-old son of the Star-Tribune writer, that "Rocco sucks" ... even though Mamma DiSpirito still continued to make meatballs and work in the restaurant until it closed. Nothing like a harmonious workforce to make for a successful restaurant.

According to a Reality TV World source, Mamma's meatballs will now be available through QVC, which continues to offer Rocco DiSpirito products.

As of Tuesday afternoon, all calls to Rocco's on 22nd Street were being answered by an automated recording, with the message stating that the eatery is "closed for renovations" and will be re-opening as a Brazilian steakhouse (a format change that has been rumored since April) later this fall.

Chef Claude Troisgros, scion of the famed Troisgros family of Roanne, France, will be the new head chef of the soon-to-be-renamed restaurant. We expect that they will not be in such a hurry to get back in business that they do not sign partnership documents before re-opening, though....

Troisgros is the chef/owner of the acclaimed Claude Troisgros in Rio de Janeiro and consulting chef at the Blue Door restaurant in Miami Beach. The Blue Door is one of the many restaurants operated by Chodorow's China Grill Management. Although French, Troisgros' wife is Brazilian and he lived in the country for nearly 20 years. After leaving Brazil in 1994, Troisgros operated Manhattan's C.T.restaurant until its sale in 1996, then briefly returned to Brazil before moving to Miami.

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