Just north of Carmen's place, the three guys -- Chris Youngers, Tai Nguyen and Al Ritchie -- who own the former Papagallo (3535 Broadway) finally closed that restaurant's doors so they could give the dining room a much-needed redecorating and cleaning. Their establishment will get a new name, too: Trio.
Mercifully, Youngers was talked out of calling the Italian-Mediterranean venue "Ty Youngers" after several customers told him it sounded too much like a country-and-western bar. He says Trio will open in mid-May.
The menu won't change too dramatically from the one created by Papagallo's originator. Syrian-born Ray Kattan mixed traditional Italian dishes (pasta, veal piccata) with Middle Eastern offerings such as hummus and oven-roasted lamb. "We'll add some soups and salads," Youngers says, "and some more interesting appetizers."
Actually, the current appetizer selection is pretty decent, particularly a luscious plate of sautéed artichoke hearts in a creamy, saffron-scented wine sauce. What the place desperately needed was to be unburdened from its harum-scarum décor, which looked more like a 1960s drag club than like a restaurant. ("You almost expect Lady Chablis to step out from the curtains," my friend Bob once observed.) In the dining room, saggy blue banquettes were still left over from the old Athena, which closed more than a decade ago. And there wasn't a surface that hadn't been draped, fringed, frilled or ornamented with shiny geegaws.
It remains to be seen what the new Trio will look like, but anything would be an improvement over Papagallo's last days. One feature will remain in place: wildly enthusiastic waiter Richard Strong, who has enough personality for three restaurants.
Trivia note: Trio's picture windows look out on the shabby Ambassador Apartments, which once housed the original Colony Restaurant, where Tonight Show host Steve Allen discovered cabaret singer Marilyn Maye. It needs a revival, too!