Omnivore - Riccardo Ullio to open Mexican restaurant in Cuerno space

And he hires Aaron Russell of Chocolate Bar fame

We dined at Sotto Sotto this evening and got a mouth full of wonderful food and an ear full of news.

First, the meal: It was the last night of Inman Park Restaurant Week and the restaurant was packed with diners taking advantage of the restaurant's $25 three-course meal. I actually skipped that but I did take the server's suggestion that we "say goodbye to this year's Heirloom tomatoes" by ordering dishes that featured them, like the Caprese salad above.

The salad included a very good bufala mozzarella and yellow, purple and red Heirlooms. The yellow, which I don't recall encountering anywhere else this year, was especially good, with a slightly sweet flavor that Wayne called "watermelony." For my entree I chose the restaurant's classic dish of tortellini stuffed with ricotta flavored with fresh mint under a tart sauce of red Heirlooms and basil.

Wayne ordered the three-course meal, starting with the cantaloupe and prosciutto show here, followed by a risotto topped with chopped tomatoes and basil. He spooned down a bowl of chocolate soup for dessert.

Now the news. We ran into Riccardo Ullio, owner of the restaurant, along with Fritti next door and Beleza in Midtown.

He is opening a new Mexican restaurant, Lupe, next to Beleza, where the defunct Cuerno was located. The restaurant will open Oct. 15 and, if you're wondering, it's named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, who will be making a splashy appearance on the walls there, I believe. A Mexican couple will be preparing the inexpensive menu of mainly taqueria-style food.

Ullio also informed me that he has hired the very talented Aaron Russell to supervise pastries at all four of his restaurants. Russell, you will recall, was chef at The Chocolate Bar, from which he resigned in August. He has most recently been working part-time for Shaun Doty....

Finally, Ullio said that he has replaced the pizzaiolo at Fritti. The new one is from Naples, like the last one. All participants in the pizza war that raged about town after the opening of Varasano's in the Spring must now report to Fritti for another taste comparison.

(Photos by Cliff Bostock)