Sunday marked the closure — after 14 years in Maple Leaf — of Gaspare's Ristorante Italiano, soon to be reopened with a new name under new ownership. Meanwhile...

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Sunday marked the closure — after 14 years in Maple Leaf — of Gaspare’s Ristorante Italiano (8051 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle; 206-524-3806), soon to be reopened with a new name under new ownership.

Meanwhile, Gaspare and Dianne Tranni are looking forward to some much-needed R&R visiting family and friends in Italy and hope to eventually open a smaller venue in another North Seattle neighborhood.

“Our next project will be all about downsizing and simplifying,” says Dianne, citing a downturn in business and their long-held dream of owning rather than leasing a restaurant site as reasons for the closure.

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“We’ve seen a generation of kids grow up here in the past 14 years,” she says. “Fourteen restaurant years is — what — 100 regular years?

Gaspare’s restaurant replacement, Toto’s Ristorante Italiano will offer a similar Italian-oriented menu plus extended hours, says new owner Tony Botchev, who plans to eventually offer live jazz on weekends.

Toto’s opening is scheduled for late this month and hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 5-11 p.m. Saturdays and 5-10 p.m. Sundays.

The recent closure of Miriani’s Italian restaurant brought the opening of yet another sushi bar to this sushi-saturated stretch of downtown Wallingford. Unlike the more traditional sushi bars and Japanese cafes that call North 45th Street home, Rain (2208 N. 45th St., Seattle; 206-545-7848), open since early November, touts “Modern Infusion Cuisine.”

Elsewhere it might be called pan-Asian, but here the menu describes the likes of crab-stuffed wonton with plum wine sauce ($8), Szechwan ginger chicken ($15) and nabeyaki king crab udon with shrimp tempura ($15) as “Pacific Northwest foods influenced by Japanese Cuisine.”

I’ll bite. Especially when much of the menu lists variations on the sushi theme, with more than two dozen sushi rolls and a happy-hour menu served from 3-6 p.m. and from 11 p.m. to closing.

Seattle’s cutest sushi chef Billy Beach — late of Wasabi Bistro and a familiar face from I Love Sushi — joined pals Takashi Ogasawara and Jennifer Douglass to bring us this stylish little neighborhood joint where beer, wine, sake and specialty cocktails are served. Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Sam’s Steakhouse (2947 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle, 206-957-7777) has a new name (Eastlake Bar & Grill), a new concept (American-style neighborhood joint) and a new managing partner (John Schmidt), making this yet another change for a restaurant location that has seen more than its fair share of them over the years.

Schmidt is quick to explain that restaurateur Larry Hamlin and restaurant consultant and investor Arnold Shain still own the place, they’re just trying to better serve the neighborhood by bringing in a less expensive, more user-friendly menu concept.

Enter Schmidt, who with his brother James co-founded Taco Del Mar, now a fast-growing franchise-operation with more than 100 outlets. The Schmidts are also investors in several other Seattle restaurants including The Irish Emigrant (5260 University Way N.E., 206-525-2955), Paddy Coyne’s Irish Pub (1190 Thomas St., 206-405-1548) and Greenlake Bar & Grill (7200 E. Green Lake Dr. N., 206-729-6179), where brother John has been the manager since he opened that popular spot four years ago.

Hoping to clone the success of Greenlake Bar & Grill, Schmidt brings to Eastlake a menu that echoes that of his Greenlake store. He says that plans are under way to create a new, nonsmoking section in the Eastlake bar, to put an additional full bar out on the view-deck next summer and to develop a banquet facility upstairs from the existing restaurant.

Open daily for lunch and dinner (bracketed by jam-packed happy hours), Eastlake Bar & Grill serves an extensive menu of starters, soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees ($5.99-$9.99 at lunch, $8.99-$14.99 at dinner). “Home-style dinners” include mesquite-smoked salmon, tempura-style fish and chips, a grilled steak sandwich and meat loaf in addition to seafood jambalaya and rock crab fettuccine.

Fans of Sam’s Steakhouse take note: The new menu offers Sam’s “famous” wedge salad ($3.99), a 16-ounce rib-eye steak ($24.99) and 12-ounce New York strip ($17.99 including Caesar salad). Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 11:30 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Mondays.

Rumor — as published in this column Nov. 3 — had it right. Ruth’s Chris Steak House (800 Fifth Ave.) is moving out of its old digs and into a new one: the grand 727 Pine restaurant space in the Grand Hyatt Seattle (727 Pine St.). “We hope to be open January 1,” says Ruth’s Chris co-owner Anne Queyrouze.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or More columns at