Four Donna's will survive the bankruptcy of Bibelot

TABLE TALK

March 15, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

Donna Crivello and Alan Hirsch knew it was coming.

When Bibelot, the local bookstore chain that houses four Donna's, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last Friday, the restaurateurs weren't surprised. They had been talking to the landlords about what Hirsch calls "the financial cloud" since before the first of the year. (The bookstore is planning to close its four locations within three months.)

"It's definitely a hassle," says Hirsch, "but we want people to know we're going to be there. We don't anticipate any interruptions."

By hassle, he means that the restaurants are at the mercy of the bankruptcy court, so their hours for the next three months will have to be the same as Bibelot's, currently 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. But those hours could change at any time, Hirsch warns.

The landlords, he adds, seem amenable to partitioning off the restaurants so the four Donna's can be tenants separate from whatever occupies the Bibelot spaces next.

The Black Olive prospers

The Black Olive in Fells Point is making a name for itself beyond Baltimore. The restaurant and a recipe for its bouillabaisse are going to be featured in Bon Appetit magazine later this year. And in the last Washington Post dining guide, critic Tom Sietsema said of the Black Olive, "For the best Greek restaurant in town, you have to drive to Baltimore."

The recognition is coming at a critical time for the Black Olive, as it expands into the building next door. The new quarters, which will almost double the seating, should open in a couple of months. Owner Stelios Spiliadis is also building an upscale inn on the block behind the restaurant, with a Greek cafe on its first floor where customers can get a glass of wine and a mezze platter. The inn, which will have 11 suites and three single rooms, should open at the end of 2002.

Hersh leaves Louisiana

How much does a restaurant's reputation rest on the shoulders of its executive chef? Perhaps not as much as you think. When Louisiana (1708 Aliceanna St.) opened last spring, it was under the capable direction of Damon Hersh, who came from the Occidental Grill in Washington. But it didn't seem to affect the kitchen that he was out for much of the last couple of months on a training sabbatical.

Now Hersh has left for good, under what sounds like less than amicable circumstances. "It was time to move on," he says, although he hasn't decided what he'll be doing yet.

Owner Dorothy Saki says she and her husband, John, aren't very concerned about replacing Hersh. "We have strong depth in the kitchen," she says.

That depth includes John and his brother Scott; Brigitte Bledsoe, who has run the kitchens of Gemini and Tapestry in Fells Point; and Jennifer Price, former owner-chef of the now-closed Wild Mushroom.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278; fax to 410-783-2519; or e-mail to elizabeth.large@baltsun.com.

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