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It takes a Village Gate 

Top chef, New York state of mind, This year's (re)model, Movin' on up

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MAX SEIFERT

The next chapter in the ever-evolving tale of 274 North Goodman Street — better known as Village Gate — is underway, with the recent opening of the airy new space now home to California Rollin' (it formerly held record store The Bop Shop). Anchored by a sushi bar on one side and a bar of the full-service alcohol variety on the other, the California Rollin' upgrade is part of Village Gate's bigger picture, which plans for offices on the second floor and unique retail shops on the first floor, with restaurants like Lento and Dark Horse Coffee, as well as Vibe, a brand-new jazz lounge, surrounding the courtyard to take advantage of the outdoor seating.

This fall should bring with it the opening of Espada, a Brazilian steakhouse concept from Gate House owners Kristen Flores-Fratto and Mike Corson, in the former Ricky's Place space. In a churrascaria, as these meateries are known — the name is derived from the Portuguese word for "barbecue" — servers carrying skewers laden with different kinds of charcoal-grilled animal proteins (beef, pork, chicken, lamb) slice their juicy wares directly onto the diner's plate. Espada's fledgling website touts a wide range of vegetarian-friendly side dishes as well as a full bar spotlighting the wines and cocktails of South America. (Mmm, caipirinhas!) More good news: Espada will be almost totally driven by renewable solar and wind power, just like its sister restaurant and neighbor. Keep on top of things at

By the way, have you heard about the sushi garbage plate at California Rollin'? It goes a little something like this: a bed of vinegared rice topped with a choice of tempura'd crawdads or tempura'd shrimp, plus bacon, asparagus, avocado, hot sauce, honey mustard, sesame seeds, onion crunchies, and scallions. For more details, visit Or you could just go eat one.

The news from the shores of Canandaigua Lake is that the New York Wine & Culinary Center has hired a new executive chef for its revamped restaurant, now called the Upstairs Bistro. Chef Mike Sokolski, a Rochester native, made his bones at places like Chicago's acclaimed TRU (co-founded, incidentally, by another hometown boy, chef and cookbook author Rick Tramonto) and was most recently executive chef at the Buffalo outpost of JoJo Bistro & Wine Bar. Visit for a taste of what Chef Sokolski has in store.

Webster's newest eatery is the Empire Bar & Grill, which opened last month at 2014 Empire Blvd. The offerings are quite extensive, with bar-food standbys like nachos, potato skins, and chicken wings (such as sweet Thai chili and a deep-fried-then-sauced-then-char-grilled Werewolf version) sharing menu real estate with salads, pasta, and certified Angus beef burgers. Look for two takes on the newly, wildly popular Juicy Lucy, which is basically a burger stuffed with cheese and other goodness. For more details, go to

The successful — and truly yummy — Tony D's Coal-Fired Pizza (288 Exchange Blvd., continues its growth in Corn Hill Landing with yet another expansion, this time into the lovely southeastern corner most recently occupied by the noodle bar and tea house known as iTastea (who, in turn, reportedly has plans to resurface in the College Town area by the University of Rochester). Part of the space will be allocated to Chef Jay Speranza and his kitchen staff for more prep room, while the balance, according to owner Tony DiCesare, will house something new from Tony D's. Pastries? Gelato, maybe? Stay tuned...

As if anyone really needs an excuse to head to Charlotte in the summer, Mr. Dominic's at the Lake (4699 Lake Ave.), a Rochester institution since 1976, has opened its doors again following the restaurant's beautifully done facelift. The menu, of course, continues to be full of Italian-American favorites; check it out at

Congratulations to Itacate, which is planning a September opening for its new sit-down restaurant at 1859 Penfield Road. But all you west-siders don't need to worry: the Buffalo Road location inside the Arrowmart will continue to offer its tasty and traditional Mexican fare. Follow Itacate's progress at

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to

The new location for Village Gate mainstay California Rollin' (pictured) is only one of the many changes at the Neighborhood of the Arts restaurant hotspot. PHOTOs BY MAX SEIFERT

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