Kattan added a piano to the bar area, faux-Louis VII gilded furniture to the lobby and more continental-style offerings -- Italian dishes and a few Middle Eastern choices -- to the menu. The food wasn't bad, but customers either loved Kattan's, um, distinctive personality or found him volatile and abrasive. Those in the former camp returned often for his excellent Steak Armagnac or oven-roasted rack of lamb. The Kattan-phobes rarely came back. After eight years, he put the business up for sale.
Last November a trio of partners -- Chris Youngers, Tai Nguyen and Al Ritchie -- bought him out, and Kattan returned to Syria. Until April, the restaurant will still be called Papagallo, and the menu should remain relatively unchanged. But the place will get another remodeling, and Youngers has other big plans.
"We've got about fifteen different ideas for names," says the former construction sales rep. "But when one of us is enthusiastic about one name, the other two don't like it as much."
One thing all three partners do agree on: The menu will be something Youngers and his chef, Eric Argie, call "American eclectic."
"We'll keep a few things that the regular customers really love from the old menu," Youngers says. "But we have other ideas that we've been trying out as specials on the weekends, like potato-encrusted salmon with dill sauce and rack of lamb in a pomegranate sauce."
The restaurant will remain a dinner-only venue, and Youngers would like to continue the old Athena tradition of having rotating art shows on his walls. And maybe a regular pianist in the lounge.
But his major task right now is getting the word out that the restaurant has a new management team. "I want to get the customers who stopped coming in, for whatever reason, to give us another try," he says.