Update: Just got off the phone with Tramonto, and that something sure sounds like it's not in Chicago. "It's been an honor to be written about by [the Sun-Times], over the 23 years I've been in Chicago," he said. You sound like you're saying goodbye, I told him. "OK, well, [laugh] yeah, kind of," he replied. "I love you guys, though. We'll hopefully make a circle back, but it's been awesome. It's time to go to the next plapce and move on."
"I'm feeling sad because I'm used to doing things with him all the time," said Gand, who was en route Thursday to Washington D.C. for a gathering of chefs participating in Michelle Obama's Chefs Move into Schools campaign. "We have a long history of cooking together, almost 30 years now. So for him to make a formal declaration that he's not gonna come home anymore is sad for me. We had a great run."
Tramonto has been cooking in Chicago since 1987. He and Gand opened the acclaimed Trio restaurant in 1993, then Brasserie T, and then Tru in 1999. The pair opened four dining concepts in the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling in 2006, but two years later, their development group that operated the restaurants dissolved.
The last few times I talked to Tramonto, 47, he gave no hints as to leaving Tru, though he sounded particularly reflective (his eighth book, due out next year, is his memoir). Explaining his very tattooed forearms, which make it into just about every photo of him in his newest book, he said, "I really wanted to bring Rick Tramonto out of the whole fine dining restaurant environment, because people don't know what I'm really about. They just know me from the restaurant," he said. "My life over the last 14 years is in a very different place."
In another conversation last spring, he said, "I'm definitely tinkering with some burger stuff, sandwiches. But it's location, it's timing, it's who would like to do it with me," he said. "I would love to do another concept. Do I need to do five more restaurants? No, not really. I admire the guys who have 15 restaurants. But everything has a cost, everything takes its toll on you.
"I still have some concepts inside of me to get out, if the locations and time are right."
Hmm... The time, it appears, is right.