Coco Pazzo's Luongo Has Plenty on His Plate

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No sooner had New York restaurateur Pino Luongo opened Coco Pazzo in the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles than his company, Toscorp, purchased Sfuzzi Inc., a group of 14 pizza/pasta restaurants around the United States (including one in Costa Mesa and another in San Diego) for $6.1 million. The company will convert each into a Coco Pazzo.

Besides his four existing Coco Pazzos, Luongo owns Il Toscanaccio and Le Madri, both in New York. And there's more: His line of Tuscan-style pasta sauces was introduced last November. Coming next? A line of canned bean soups.

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Last Supper: The week of Jan. 20 will be the final one for Rex Il Ristorante, the regal Italian restaurant the late Mauro Vincenti opened in May 1981 in the historic Oviatt building downtown. The rush is on for lunch and dinner reservations, but Maureen Vincenti has yet to nail a date for the closing party she wants to give for friends.

"It depends on the Super Bowl and what friends can make it," she said. Vincenti has spent months looking for a new Westside location. She is bidding on several spots but nothing has been decided yet.

"None of the investors are in a hurry to sign anything unless the location is right," she said.

Meanwhile Rex's Art Deco treasures will be sold at either an auction or a private sale. Rex chef Gino Angelini heads to Italy in February for three months to begin construction on a home in Rimini and tend to other business ventures. His future? "He's staying with me, thank heavens," Vincenti said. "But he's getting lots of calls from other people."

The two will meet up in late March when she goes to Italy to check out what's new there and catch up with friends in Rome, Tuscany, Sorrento, Rimini and Piedmont.

"It will be my first trip without Mauro. I'm kind of scared," she said.

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Spring Fever: The message on the answering machine at Les Deux Cafes in Hollywood says that the restaurant is closed for the winter but will reopen in the spring.

No rest for executive chef David Wynns, however. With a partner, he's scouting restaurant locations in Seattle as well as doing some consulting work here in the Southland.

"I want to stay connected in some way with Les Deux," he says, "since I put so much time into it. Nearly a year." For an American chef, it seems, that's a long time.

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Growing Pains: La Serenata de Garibaldi chef-owner Jose Rodriguez has a fortunate problem: Neither of his two restaurants has enough space.

Well, that will soon be history. Expansion is underway at both the year-old site in West Los Angeles and his 12-year-old restaurant in Boyle Heights.

The 55-seat restaurant on West Pico Boulevard will add 50 seats by February, thanks to an extra room that Rodriguez has rented from Thai Dishes next door. By June, when the Thai restaurant vacates the spot, he will take over the rest of the space and expand the kitchen.

But the extra seats will have no impact on the current no-reservations policy. "We'll wait and see how it goes," Rodriguez said.

The Boyle Heights restaurant at 1842 E. First St. gets 100 extra seats once the purchase of the Laundromat next door and renovation are complete, probably by June.

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Alter Egos: What a way to go. Restaurateur Fred Eric and designer Fred Sutherland will celebrate their birth year (1962) by opening Fred's '62, a diner at 1850 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, in mid-February at the site of George's Coffee Shop.

Expect cozy booths, plenty of stainless steel, wooden counters and pin-striping with "guy colors in the tones of Green Bay Packers," says Eric.

Their motto, "Eat Now, Dine Later," applies to the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu that will be served from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. They'll also deliver.

Eric, chef-owner of Vida on Hillhurst, always dreamed of doing simple food and was inspired by the old Ships coffee shops and Musso & Frank.

Sutherland's design will be reminiscent of the ultra, live-forever details of a classy Cadillac, says Eric.

"Fred has always wanted to be a chef and restaurant-owner. I always wanted to be in design. So, now, we got it," Sutherland adds.

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Trifling Around: Burns Night Suppers is getting set to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet. This year tartans and single-malts will make their rounds on Jan. 25 (Burns' actual birthday) as well as Jan. 20 and 21.

The ritual reading of the Scottish poet's "Ode to the Haggis" and the stabbing the haggis (a glorified meatloaf traditionally cooked in a sheep's stomach) highlight an evening of Highland dancing, a roast beef supper and endless toasts.

Seats for Burns Night Suppers are sometimes in short supply because Scottish societies usually take over clubs and restaurants for the event.

Among the restaurants that celebrate Burns Night is the Tam O' Shanter Inn in Atwater, where diners can attend celebrations on either Jan. 20 or 21. Dinner, dancing and poetry reading are included; two seatings at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Price of the three-course menus depends on entree (prime rib, salmon, duckling, Toad in the Hole or lamb shanks). Haggis and English trifle round out the fare.

* Tam O'Shanter, 2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater. (213) 664-0228.

A couple of dozen seats also remain for the Burns Night gala on Jan. 25 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Organized by the United Scottish Society, St. Andrew Society and Los Angeles Burns Club, the dinner dance is expected to draw 500 revelers. A procession with pipers, plus Highland dancing, singing, drumming and roast beef dinner in the liner's Grand Salon make up the evening.

Reservations are required. The party starts at 6 p.m.; cost is $45. Contact the United Scottish Society at (818) 360-1517.

* The Grand Salon, the Queen Mary, Long Beach. (310) 432-6964.

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