Year endings mean updates for restaurants as well as resolutions:
Jose Ramon Andres, who has been shuttling back and forth between his main kitchen at Cafe Atlantico (405 Eighth St.NW; 202/393-0812) and his originalstand at Jaleo (480 Seventh St. NW; 202/628-7949), has been thinking that the once trend-crowd-central tapas palace was starting to need a dose of his up-close attention. So now that they've whipped out that James Beard House dinner, he's turning over the free-minded Medi-funky Cafe to his former sous-chef and line cook, the very deft and funny Christie Vellie (listed as "acting" for the time being) and Katsuya Fukushima, and heading back to Seventh Street. Not that he'll be all that far away. . . .
The old Woodley Park fave Petitto's Ristorante d'Italia (2653 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202/667-5350), now a couple of years into its second half-century, has decided to enter the pseudo-neudo millennium with its own shake-up; and though details are still being held secret, the interior decor will be getting a face lift -- which means that most of the old black and white pasta/pastoral drawings, including the little boy dreaming of pasta and the lovers under the tree seeing pasta shapes in the clouds, are on their way out. As part of the restaurant's 13th annual charity caroling, which benefits the National Children's Center for the Developmentally Handicapped, Petitto's will put them up for auction starting about 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Patrons can either make dinner reservations (the caroling is accompanied by an accordion, if you're tired of the elevator versions); or come by for cocktails between 7 and 9.
Finally, there are lot of edible edifices this time of year, but the gingerbread castle in the lobby of the Washington Monarch Hotel at 24th and M streets NW is about as fantastic as the King Ludwig palace it (and Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland) was modeled on. It's three feet wide and five feet tall, took more than 80 hours to make and involved 50 pounds of sugar, 35 pounds of marzipan (for the turrets and the chocolate-marzipan Nutcracker Prince guards), 30 pounds of chocolate (the roof "tiles"), 25 pounds of butter -- it even has colored sugar "stained glass" windows. Pastry chef Dan Michel's showpiece will be on display through Jan. 3.
Finally, another bit of is-it-or-is-it-ain't-the-millennium news: Toque, Montreal's premier restaurant, is taking the high middle road by scheduling its millennium celebration during the Easter/summer equinox season, a much more sensible marker for a new beginning. We like it.