GM-O-Rama

It seems like some things never change. While the weather is improving, and the flowers of May are in bloom, the restaurant business is still a nasty, seething den of vipers. Hirings, firings, job-swapping and tantrums—why do you think we sit at a computer all day instead of manning the pans? We simply got tired of surfing the changing tides of employment, wondering, as we whisked, whether our current restaurant was tanking or my boss would finally be carted off to jail or rehab. It gets wearing, folks.

Plus—besides working in a soul-eating industry alongside all of those “creative types” + high stress + booze, cooking turned out to be hell on our manicure.

Therefore it is with some empathy that we report that sommelier Don Castaldo, everyone’s favorite Billy Joel lookalike at Crabtree’s Kittle House, has been rather suddenly let go. We learned this when we called following up on a story. Castaldo, some of you might remember, made a huge impact on the NY Times’ M. H. Reed, in the review that ultimately downgraded Crabtree’s from ”Excellent” to “Very Good”. She said of Castaldo, “For convenience, a short wine list supplements the thick, complete wine book, and Don Castaldo, the terrific sommelier, can help the uncertain match a wine to food and to wallet. We asked for recommendations under $50. Mr. Castaldo checked our food order and made fine suggestions.” All we can say is, ditto. We’ve always found him to be a charming asset to our experiences at the Kittle House. He also consulted at the ground floor of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, helping to set up the wine list there.

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Castaldo’s departure follows closely on the heels of Glen Vogt joining John Crabtree as partner. Vogt, you might remember, was involved with Restaurant X, and was General Manager at Windows on the World and, most recently, Monteverde and Allen and Delancey. Vogt, back in the mists of time, started at Crabtree’s Kittle House and (some think) was responsible for putting the Chappaqua standard on the culinary map. Vogt has a strong wine background, and insiders are betting that he’ll simply step into Castaldo’s shoes—as partner, he’ll be saving himself the burden of paying another salary.

So what’s up at Monteverde and Allen and Delancey, then? Well, despite scuttlebutt that the owner of these two white-hot restaurants, Dick Friedberg, is—shall we say—difficult, neither Vogt nor the two restaurants’ superstar Exec. Chef Neil Ferguson are dishing. Rumors ran rampant that Chef Ferguson was as out-the-door as Glen Vogt, but then, restaurant rumors often fail. We managed to clap eyes on Chef Ferguson—who is a lovely, charming man—in the flesh last week when we visited Monteverde. He mentioned that he and his wife were buying a house in Carmel, which is a godawful commute to Allen and Delancey, but shows Ferguson’s commitment to Monteverde. Of course, whether that’s just for today or the long haul, we’ll never know—but Ferguson has already gotten two speeding tickets rocketing between the two restaurants.

So who, in this game of career musical chairs, is stepping into Vogt’s Wine Director/General Manager place at Monteverde? Elisa Fritz, who Glen Vogt brought in to help him out before he vamoosed to Crabtree’s. Her title is Director of Dining Room Services.

P.S. We can’t tell you how much of a relief it is not to be materially affected by all this, though my heart goes out to all left in the lurch.

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