Roberto Passon has left his namesake restaurant, for five years a recommendable option in the Theater District. Partner Enrico Malta, who operates the New York City Restaurant Group along with his brother Bobby, tells us they plan to replace Passon with Giuliano Matarese (currently the chef at one of their other restaurants, La Carbonara) and they’ll rename the restaurant Giuliano. Asked why Passon left so suddenly (“this just happened today,” Malta said), Malta told us it was an amicable split and that Passon “wants to take some time off and open up on his own.” The chef had been with the Malta brothers ever since 2003 — he opened Scarlatto and Bocca di Bacco with them.
Malta says Matarese’s new menu will debut December 7, and Passon fans such as Ron Corning can expect a more seasonal menu, with entreés under $18 (currently, some items are as much as $23). The cuisine will be inspired by Naples and Sardinia, from which Matarese hails. Asked whether lowering his prices has worked out for him, Malta told us, “I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on. I gotta make a little bit of a profit, but consistently. As long as every chair is filled, I know I’m going to make a profit. I think that’s a recessionproof restaurant, and that’s where we’re heading right now.”