No appetizers – we're going straight to the entrées

Photo By John Anderson

Boy, was there ever plenty of news as August steamed to a close here in Austin. Chefs Kristie and Andy Sasser and big sis Audrey welcomed Elliot Whitaker Sasser (7.5 lbs., 22 inches) into their family last week... Bick and Erika Brown announced they've sold the Hyde Park neighborhood gelato shop and bar Dolce Vita (4222 Duval St., 323-2686) to techies Pascal Nicolas and Beverly Gonzales. The new owners and their general manager, Alex Maradiaga, are learning the ropes, not to mention the gelato and dessert recipes, from the shop's popular longtime proprietor, Concetta Mastroianni, Erika's mom. Once she's got the new folks off to a good start, Concetta will be selling real estate for Keller Williams Realty. The new owners assure us they intend to maintain the level of quality and service guests expect at Dolce Vita while adding some flourishes of their own somewhere down the road... Carlos Rivera and his partners in El Chile Cafe y Cantina and El Chilito have several irons in the fire here lately. They are eagerly anticipating the rollout of their signature salsa (bottled at Austin Kitchen Inc.) at local Whole Foods stores any day, and they are busy working with Zócalo Design & Advertising on the package design for their next product, the secret chile spice mixture that makes their Micheladas and Chilango Margaritas so distinctively drinkable. Rivera also shared some details about their newest restaurant venture on Manor Road's Restaurant Row. Look for El Gringo (1917 Manor Rd.) to debut sometime this fall, hopefully in time to feed some fall football crowds. Rivera and his team are working closely with designer Joel Mozersky on all aspects of the new place, which will have an American bistro menu with some Latin influences. "This is the most fun I've ever had putting a restaurant together," Rivera told us. And just FYI: Don't be surprised if we see El Chile chefs Jeff Martinez and Kristine Kittrell "throw down" with a certain Food Network chef sometime later this year... Speaking of chili (the food item, not the pepper in general), Houston chili queen Cindy Reed Wilkins has finally captured the one important chili title that had always eluded her. Wilkins was named 2006 Texas State Champion at the CASI Texas Open Chili Championship in Conroe, Aug. 12. For more about Wilkins and her competition chili-cooking career, go to Mexican food lovers in the Anderson Lane/Shoal Creek area now have a new place to drink and dine. Proprietors Guadalupe and Lucina Barragan celebrated the opening of Casa Chapala Mexican Grill & Cantina (3010-D W. Anderson Ln., 459-4242) last week... Those of us who attended the breakfast benefits for Bruce Barnes and his family at Hoover's Cooking (2002 Manor Rd., 479-5006; 13376 Research, 335-0300) were treated to a sumptuous feast that included shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, chicken and pancakes, Hoover's Cajun eggs Benedict and florentine. Bruce, Jam, and Leo were touched by all of the great donations to the silent auction and very grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. If you didn't make it to the benefit breakfasts but would still like to help out, donations can be made to the Bruce Barnes Fund at either Hoover's location... Austin's queen mother of comfort food, the legendary Dot Hewitt, is finally rising from the ashes of her former restaurant and settling in a new location. Hewitt has been serving a modified menu to her die-hard faithful customers from a trailer near the slab of her former restaurant since soon after it burned down in October of 2004. Now, she's moved to a renovated pizza parlor in Pflugerville, and Dots Place (15803 Windermere Dr., 252-9300) is once again open for business. So many people are going to be so happy about this!

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