Look for a new Italian restaurant to open at 405 N. Charles St. where the Vanguard Cafe used to be. Extensive renovations are going on now, and Sotto Sopra, which means upside down, should be open at the beginning of March.
The food will be from the south of Italy -- along the lines of tomatoes, olive oil and foccaccia rather than butter and cream.
Meanwhile, a Little Italy favorite, Ristorante Tacchetti, has closed; and Il Porto has been open for three weeks in its place at 1018 Eastern Ave. Il Porto advertises its food as "southern Italian nouvelle cuisine," but no one I talked to could tell me exactly what that means.
Dealing with no-shows
Restaurants are so beset by customers not bothering to cancel reservations that pretty soon they may be asking for credit card numbers and charging no-shows. (American Express now experimenting with 35 restaurants, none of them in the Baltimore-Washington area.)
How do Baltimore restaurants deal with the problem, which can leave empty seats even on a busy Saturday night? The most common solution is overbooking.
Ken Hadel, manager of the Prime Rib, sometimes gets a credit card number for large parties; but without a signature by fax, many credit card companies won't accept punitive charges.
Nona Kennedy at the Polo Grill says, "We have few no-shows because we call and confirm almost all our reservations the day before."
Yves Behrens, food and beverage director at Hampton's, hasn't found no-shows to be a big problem because Harbor Court Hotel's dining room can count on walk-ins to fill empty seats. The exception is events like New Year's Eve, when people may be charged if they don't show up. Just your ordinary Sunday brunch. Corn pancakes with grilled ham, plum salsa and spiced rum syrup. Marinated hearts of palm with ruby grapefruit and pecans. Canadian bacon and egg pizza. Grits. Even sticky buns. Well, what do you expect when the snazzy Ruby Lounge in Mount Vernon starts serving brunch? Hours are noon to 4 p.m.
Profusions is open
Reports of the demise of Profusions at 322 N. Charles St. have been greatly exaggerated -- by me, unfortunately, in last week's Table Talk. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Call (410) 547-7430 for reservations.
Your two cents
Don't you wish you had my job? Well, this is the next best thing: Send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to Zagat Survey, 1227 25th St. N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20037-1198 to receive a restaurant survey questionnaire. This year the survey includes 300 restaurants in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, about twice as many as last year. (You rate only the ones you've been to.) Participants will get a free copy of the Washington, D.C./Baltimore Restaurant Survey.
Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Or fax to (410) 783-2519.