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Signs of the Times

And just a block away from Sacre Bleu (or whatever it may or may not be calling itself in the near future), Doug Fleischman and Frank Bonanno of Mizuna (225 East Seventh Avenue) are still negotiating with the owners of China Hill, around the corner from Mizuna at 711 Grant Street, for the purchase of their space. Fleischman and Bonanno are looking to put an Italian restaurant, Luca d'Italia, in that spot -- whose back door is only a few feet from Mizuna's back door, making it easier for the pair to work two restaurants. But the fact of the matter is, an earlier report that this is a done deal may have been a bit premature (at least according to one of the folks behind China Hill), even if Bonanno's already working on a proposed menu. Look for things to start moving forward around the end of the year.

Antonio Race has left Ciao Vino (126 West Mountain Road, Fort Collins) to concentrate on Pulcinella Ristorante(2100 West Drake Road, also in Fort Collins, and a Wine SpectatorAward of Excellence winner for several years running). Race recently turned over his shares in Ciao Vino to partners, because running four restaurants (Ciao Vino, Pulcinella and two Pulcinella Pizzerias in Fort Collins and Loveland) was pulling him away from being able to focus on the fine-dining experience that he's so passionate about.

But then, some restaurateurs do manage to make multiple restaurants work: Lola, David Query's new upscale Mexican restaurant, is set to open August 21 in the former home of Micole(1469 South Pearl Street), sneaking in just ahead of what could be a flood of upscale Mex joints filling the landscape not just here, but across the country. And just for the sake of convenience -- so that when I go to hell, it won't be a very long drive -- the Field Development Group (national restaurant and nightclub developers based in Columbus, Ohio) will be opening Margarita Mama's Mexican Grill and Cantina and Banana Joe's Island Party on August 29 in the Denver Pavilions. This monster of a project will cover two floors and 38,000 square feet with officially sanctioned corporate merriment. There'll be a dance club, a martini and cigar bar, themed restaurants, fifty TVs all tuned to sporting events, a cocktail lounge and a Midway Carnival Park with video games, skee-ball and the like so that you can get drunk and blow your whole paycheck to win a 39-cent stuffed monkey for your girlfriend. Trust me, kids: This one's gonna be fun! Satan himself promised me I wouldn't be disappointed.


Booze news: The Denver Wine Connection now has a specialty wine warehouse open at 1190 Yuma Street (that's off I-25 at Eighth Avenue), featuring an extensive collection of grapa divvied up by price range, grape variety and place of origin. This no-frills outlet is also stocking some rare and hard-to-find wines that won't make as bad a dent in your wallet as you'd think, because prices are kept low by the spartan surroundings and low overhead. In an attempt to "de-mystify" the wine-selecting process, owners Bob and Ingrid Grueter(former owners of Aspen Wine and Spirits Co.) have also brought on board Imre Kausz, a second-level master sommelier, as general manager and all-around wine guru, as well as a handpicked staff. The store will soon have Web site where you can place orders and arrange for delivery anywhere in the metro area; in the meantime, call 303-825-8000.

The Fourth Story(2955 East First Avenue) continues its Sunset On Sunday Wine Tasting series with a selection of Old World whites such as pinot gris and white burgundy on Sunday, September 1. It'll run you $35 per person, but that includes the tasting plus matching hors d'oeuvres from a kitchen now under the command of executive chef Tyler Wiard. Reservations are required; call 303-322-1824.

Kevin Taylor and the gang at Nicois (815 17th Street), which marks its one-year birthday this month, have decided that the easiest and most painless way to get through this summer's drought is to drink more wine. To wit, they've introduced their bottomless wineglass promotion where, throughout the month of August, $35 gets you a three-course prix fixe menu and seven bottomless glasses of vino, including a Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay, Tepusquet Vineyard Syrah and more. The menu looks fantastic, the wine list quite interesting, and you just can't beat the price.

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