As with Brad and Jennifer or England Dan and John Ford Coley, the professional marriage of Chris Cannon and Scott Conant at Alto and L’Impero seemed perfect to the world until the day it broke up. Both men tell Grub Street that they have oodles of respect and love for the other, but in speaking to both, we were able to gather a basic time line of what happened. Some time in the last year, Conant talked to Cannon about new and ambitious plans outside the restaurant, which we gather are still in play but which Cannon wanted no part of. (Conant is doing a little casual consulting for Il Tutto Giorno, a friend’s tiny, 30-seat restaurant in Sag Harbor, but by Conant’s account, that is a minor, separate affair, and he is certainly not to be the chef there.) “There are things I wanted to do, and he wasn’t necessarily on the same page with that,” Conant says. “I need to achieve my potential. The restaurant business is changing, becoming more fluid, and I need to evolve with it.”
It looks like Scott Conant, one of the city’s top Italian chefs, will be leaving Alto and L’Impero. Neither restaurant will confirm, but a high-level source with professional connections to Conant and Chris Cannon (co-owner of the restaurants) tells us that former Fiamma chef Michael White will replace Conant in both kitchens. The decision to part was supposedly pretty friendly, though based on longstanding disagreements between Conant and Cannon on how to move forward with their partnership. L’Impero will maintain its focus on southern Italian food, Alto on northern, but our source expects that White will introduce new menus by mid-August.