"How cool is it that New York had to come to Cleveland for a concept?" Symon burbled with characteristic glee.
Scheduled for a March debut, Parea (Greek for "a group of friends") will serve a blend of traditional and contemporary Greek mezze, or small plates, with an emphasis on organic ingredients. The bistro will be located at 36 East 20th Street, between Park Avenue and Broadway, next to the landmark Gramercy Tavern.
The man behind the project is 39-year-old banker-turned-restaurant-impresario Telly Hatzigeorgiou. "There just aren't that many great Greek chefs in this country," Hatzigeorgiou said. "But Michael is a great chef and a great guy, and I couldn't be happier to have him."
Symon, who has turned down past offers that would have required him to relocate, aims to remain in Cleveland. "This is my home," he says. "My baby restaurants are here, and I could never leave them."
Meanwhile, the long-awaited reopening of Lola, on downtown's East Fourth Street, continues to face delays; now, it's not expected to launch until April or May. In a TV twofer, both Lola and Parea will be featured in spring episodes of the Food Network's Fine Living Channel reality series, Opening Soon.
More amour . . . One Walnut (1801 East Ninth Street, 216-575-1111), one of downtown's best restaurants, has amped up the romance: On February 10, 11, and 14, chef-owner Marlin Kaplan is offering a special four-course dinner for two, including a half-bottle of bubbly, for $150 per couple. The remainder of the month, couples can avoid the V-Day rush by scoring a three-course "dinner for romance," filled with sexy tidbits like caviar, oysters, and silky chocolate hearts topped with almond whipped cream, for $80 per couple (champagne included).
In a decidedly less romantic move, One Walnut has also added spam to its menu: Yep, the elegant salon now offers wifi access.
The morning after . . . If your tryst lasts till breakfast, you can score some fine pancakes at The Classic Diner (10401 Madison Avenue, 216-651-2743), a modest eatery on the near West Side. Thick, dense, and about the size of a manhole cover, these bad boys will not only stick to your ribs, they won't empty your wallet: An all-you-can-eat portion, available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., runs a mere $3.50.