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Remembering Gina DePalma, Bocca East's Flambé Lawsuit, and More Intel

A sneak peek at the Maison Premiere spinoff, plus more news and gossip from around NYC.

[The dining room at Empellon Cocina by Krieger]
[The dining room at Empellon Cocina by Krieger]
Daniel Krieger

Pastry chef Shuna Lydon remembers the her colleague Gina DePalma, who died last week: "Gina’s fingers and body led her, as if they were teaching her, not the other way around. Although we were in our early twenties, Gina joked that she’d already lived a lifetime. She never looked awkward learning a new recipe or training the latest assistant." DePalma, who was a seminal part of the Babbo team for many years, completed a second cookbook before she died, but she never found a publisher. Mario Batali tells the Times: "She was the mother soul of the entire kitchen."

A mother and daughter are suing the former owner of Upper East Side restaurant Bocca East over a flambé disaster in the dining room several years ago. According to the suit, Judith and Luara Katz were enjoying a meal at Bocca East when the fire from a flambé dish spread to Laura, whose upper body became "engulfed in flames." Her mother, Judith, was also allegedly injured when she jumped up to help extinguish the fire. In addition to burns, the suit alleges that Judith suffered "shock, fright and emotional distress" because of the incident. The mom and daughter are seeking unspecified damages. Bocca East got a new set of owners last year, and the restaurant no longer offers flambéd dishes.

Naama Tamir is planning a Little Italy spinoff of her Williamsburg bar/restaurant Lighthouse. The new restaurant will offer healthy food, plus beer and wine. It's slated to open in February at 241 Mulberry Street.

Carla Hall's forthcoming hot chicken restaurant in the old Whiskey Soda Lounge space is now slated to open in February. It's called Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen.

Silvia Killingsworth of Tables for Two is a big fan of Babu Ji: "The 'unauthentic butter chicken' was a sleeper hit. It sounded bland enough to avoid yet tasted anything but, with a fiery curry of milk, ginger, garlic, tomato, fenugreek, and garam masala. The vegetarian coconut-milk curry contained cubes of squash roasted to such a perfect consistency you might think it was meat. "

— And speaking of Babu Ji, owners Jessi and Jennifer Singh say that on their busiest nights, they see around 200 guests pass through their 55-seat dining room. It's a hot ticket, and the lines started forming on day one. The Post recommends that if you want to snag a table, your best bet is to show up when the restaurant opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m.

— Sauvage, the long-delayed Greenpoint bar/restaurant from the Maison Premiere team, recently lost its plywood and got an awning:

If you spy a restaurant that's opening soon, please send any photos or intel to the tipline.

A version of Midtown favorite Burger Joint is opening soon in Singapore. This is being opened by a franchise owner who is not part of the original Burger Joint NY team. Franchise spinoffs of the restaurant also exist in Brazil, Abu Dhabi, and Seoul.

Two of Le Bilboquet's longtime front-of-the-house team members, Isis Arruda and Gent Kasmi, recently decamped to nearby Beautique.

— Rumor has it that Pete Wells is reviewing Sadelle's this week.

A new, as-yet-unnamed sushi restaurant is coming to the southwest corner of Avenue C and East 8th Street. EV Grieve notes that in recent years, this space housed Lumé, Life Kitchen and Bar, and Caffe Peppe Rosso.

— And finally, here are three vegetable recipes from April Bloomfield:

Babu Ji

22 East 13th Street, New York, NY 10003 (212) 951-1082 Visit Website