With Level V and Ruby Foos now closed, how ironic are these words from the Forbes profile of Stephen Hanson: Recession? Hanson isn't worried: The Le Bernardin crowd, he says, goes to his restaurants when they want to cut their spending. Middle-class folks go when they want to splurge. Now Diners Journal hears the other side of the equation from Hansons newly homeless chef, Fabio Trabocchi: At Fiamma, he said, the decline in business from the third to the fourth quarters of 2008 was between 25 and 30 percent. In early January, a typically slow month, the situation began to deteriorate further, he said. And this despite the fact that Fiamma recently bowed to the trend toward cheaper comfort food. (Among other things, last year the restaurant cut its tasting-menu prices after some criticism.) Trabocchis predictions are dire: There will be (indeed, already are) 40 percent drop-offs in business, more high-profile closings, and less freedom for chefs.
Fabio Trabocchi on Fiammas Closing [Diner's Journal/NYT]