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    Even a James Beard Award semifinalist isn't immune from the vagaries of the economy. Nationally recognized chef Kevin Fonzo, owner of both K Restaurant Wine Bar and Nonna Trattoria ed Enoteca, closed K's doors in late February and consolidated operations in the bungalow that housed Nonna. The newly amalgamated boîte, now called K Restaurant, has Kevin's brother Greg taking charge of a menu largely reflective of K's old bill of fare with influences from Nonna. The roll call of seasonal gems with a focus on local sourcing is what kept the old K thriving for many years, and it'll do the same for K's latest incarnation. As far as the space is concerned, the cosmetic changes are a welcome sight to the ears. The one aspect of Nonna that I didn't care for was the hardwood floor ' while aesthetically pleasing, that floor contributed to a clamorous racket throughout the restaurant. Now, with a thorough carpeting, the dining room makes craned-neck lobe-pinching a thing of the past. Velvet curtains add a touch of subdued elegance while nurturing an environment much more conducive to conversational sustenance.

    Case in point: the grilled beef hearts ($9). We couldn't stop talking about how all the disparate elements of the appetizer harmonized ' the robust flavor of the sliced hearts, sweet roasted beets, brined tangerines, earthy greens and a horseradish dressing with pop. The thick tomato slice in the K-Stack salad ($7) came topped with goat cheese and mixed greens splashed with a citrus vinaigrette, but it was the basil leaves that helped balance out all the flavors. Fonzo's locavore predilection shows in these dishes, with the beef hearts coming from DeLeon Springs' Deep Creek Ranch and the tomato sourced from Sanford's Waterkist Farm. The herb and vegetable garden on the restaurant's premises was trampled during the move, we were told, but it should be primed for picking in a few weeks. An inordinate amount of time passed before our entrees arrived ' our server appeared somewhat harried waiting on the handful of tables in our vicinity and, as a result, we didn't quite get the attentive service we expected. Along with the time lag, our water glasses went unfilled ' minor miscues that were temporarily dismissed after one bite of the porcini-rubbed filet mignon ($32). Each silken bite washed in a cabernet sauvignon sauce aroused groans of gratification, as did the square of potato au gratin, slightly seared on top. A side of grilled broccolini ($7) dusted with parmesan and sprinkled with lemon was an ideal green to pair with the steak. The grilled wild Scottish salmon ($21) didn't produce as enthusiastic a response, but it was a decent slab, served with basmati rice and a pickled-tomato relish. Just when we forgot and forgave the wait time to get our mains, an even longer wait ensued just to put in our dessert order. Other servers tended to us through the course of our entrees, but we were all but neglected for a good 10 minutes after our table was cleared. Nevertheless, it was well worth the wait to sample a slice of fresh pecan pie ($6) served with a scoop of Guinness ice cream. Molten chocolate lava cake ($8), a choice insisted on by our server, was also superb. I can see why the table next to us chose to start their meals off with dessert.

    As they've done in the past, the Fonzos, for the most part, run their restaurant to the letter. In K's case, that letter happens to be an A.

    What a difference a letter makes. Back in February, Café Allegre chef and owner Kevin Fonzo told me of his plan to renovate the existing space, add tables and a private dining room next door, and adopt a new name. "Something with 'Kevin' in it, to make my mother happy," he said. What he came up with was K Restaurant and Wine Bar. What he has in K is a superb restaurant, one that took me quite by surprise.

    People have been saying wonderful things about Café Allegre in College Park for years, something I'd attributed to the fact that there are very few restaurants in the area. On the site of the former Babycakes Restaurant, Allegre opened in May 1997. When then owner Maria Bonomo-Do Pico recruited Fonzo (a Culinary Institute of America graduate) from Atlanta's Phoenix Brewing Co., in 1999, the place turned from casual to upscale. Deep-red walls held paintings by local artists, the wine list expanded, and the menu added ingredients like venison and saffron.

    Blame it on phases of the moon, but on every occasion I was there, food was miscooked, substitutions were made without discussion, and service was mediocre.

    Well, same chef, same room, but in my recent experience dining at K, the quality of both food and service have skyrocketed. The meal was pleasurable from beginning to end.

    A heady mixture of intensely flavored grilled quail ($7) on a bed of mache (a green similar to cress) and a puree of Vidalia onion -- so sweet I thought it was apple -- started me off. The seared scallop with sesame noodles ($6) was perfectly done, but note the singular form -- one scallop, not quite the bargain the quail was. Even a simple house salad of greens and mushrooms was a delicacy, sprinkled with balsamic and the right touch of shaved grainy Romano.

    The main courses are seasonal; the menu on this visit featured grouper "picatta" ($19). People passing by the window actually came in to ask what I was eating -- it was that pretty. The slightly tangy pan-seared fish sat atop potatoes whipped with artichoke, and it was covered with a mélange of diced peppers and summer squash. It was exceptional. Equally good, the tender marinated chicken ($14) had its own potato mound, this time mixed with roasted garlic, plus more of the veggies, with a deep herb-flavored gravy.

    Even if you loved the old cafe, it's an even better restaurant now. And I'll be back.



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