Rick Tramonto announces New Orleans restaurant
In about half an hour, Rick Tramonto will hold a press conference in New Orleans, where he'll finally make his long-promised announcement. As we predicted, that announcement is a new restaurant, in New Orleans.
That restaurant, Restaurant R'evolution, is the first of what Tramonto hopes will be many restaurants. He is starting the restaurant--as well as a new restaurant company called On The Range--with Louisiana chef John Folse.
Folse and Tramonto have a long history together, starting when Folse first ate Tramonto's food in the beginning years of TRU. When Katrina hit, Folse called on Tramonto to come out to New Orleans and help feed the city. Tramonto complied, and the experience stuck with him: Not only did he fall in love with the city, but he found a kindred spirit in Folse, who, like Tramonto, happens to be an incredibly successful chef who is incredibly dedicated to Jesus. (More recently, Folse called on Tramonto to help raise awareness of the Louisiana seafood industry.)
For the moment, Tramonto will commute to New Orleans, keeping residences both there and here in Chicago. He remains involved in Tramonto's Steak & Seafood for at least another year (that contract is renewed on a yearly basis), but earlier this summer he surprised everybody by leaving TRU and Lettuce Entertain You. In a phone interview yesterday, Tramonto told me how much he respects his friend, LEYE chairman Rich Melman, who he has worked with for more than 20 years. "But I just didn't feel I could do this while still at Lettuce," Tramonto said.
This is not the first time Tramonto has attempted a global restaurant company outside of LEYE. His Wheeling steakhouse was part of his Cenitare Restaurant company, which he started with Gale Gand. The plan for that company was to open restaurants all over the country, but it never happened. On The Range is his second chance. After Restaurant R'evolution opens--the restaurant, which will serve updated takes on classic New Orleans food (think wild boar gumbo) is slated to open in late 2011--Tramonto and Folse fully expect to open more concepts. No word on what those concepts would be, or where they would be located. But Tramonto promises that should an opportunity arise for him to open back in Chicago, he'd take it "in a heartbeat."