Food & Beverage News"/>
STEAK, FISH, AND . . . PASTA!? Restauranting is serious business, but that doesn't mean that every restaurant is the result of detailed planning, even at the big-investment end of the spectrum. Some restaurants justhappen. Case in point: the new white-tablecloth Italian enterprise slated to open in December in the space at the corner of Third and Madison formerly occupied by Fleming's Prime Steak House. "I never planned to open an Italian place," says Paul Mackay, proprietor of el Gaucho, Rippe's, and Waterfront, "and I always used to say I'd never open a restaurant downtown. But Rich Troiani, my Waterfront manager, has always dreamed of running a great Italian place. And Rich had worked in Portland with Walter Pisano, who's now running Tulio's. So when Fleming's closed in April, everything just seemed to come together. We signed in June and went to work rearranging the interior; flipping the bar, putting in private rooms, opening up the kitchen, some other real pop-out stuff. But our real emphasis will be on the menu. Seattle really only has one terrific high-end Italian restaurant, il Terrazzo Carmine in Pioneer Square. There's certainly room for at least one more." ANY WAY YOU SLICE 'EM . . . . . . local tomatoes are best, and Portland-based environmental lobbyists Ecotrust is spending $50,000 to try convince more people to eat them. Two weeks ago, readers of the Wednesday Oregonian and Willamette Week opened their papers to find a four-page insert telling "the Tale of Two Tomatoes, Local Lucy and Traveling Tom," and asking the rather racy question: "Which would you rather have sitting on your salad?" The correct answer, of course, is Lucy, because poor Tom (illustrated a glum-looking salaryman with hornrims and a briefcase) is dished as an industrial product, "Picked hard, green, and then gassed with hormones to make them appear ripe when it's time for them to go to market." In addition to the 360,000 inserts (never fear, eco-fans, they were printed on recycled paper), Ecotrust has recruited 34 local supermarkets to feature local tomatoes, and is collecting sales statistics it hopes will prove that consumers have heard the call and put their produce lucre on Lucy. BE AFRAID The food columnist you read today could be teaching you to cook tomorrow. The San Francisco Chronicle just announced plans to institute its very own cooking school (taught by the paper's food and wine critics), and if the idea catches on, Seattle Weekly food writers may become a bigger part of your life than you ever could have hopedor feared. Imagine: Laura Cassidy on the art of flame-broiling New York strip steak! Hasan Jafri on the perfect korma! Katie Millbauer on Mixology 101. Of course, the Chronicle is armed with "the largest food and wine staff of any newspaper in the country," while the Weekly's numbers are comparatively scant, so don't be surprised if you find your salad prof moonlighting as a pastry chef. The Chronicle's cooking school begins Sept. 13, which gives you just about time to register, pack, and move to Baghdad-by-the-Bay. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at email@example.com.