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Table Talk: New Hope's La Bonne Auberge closing after 38 years

The countdown has begun at La Bonne Auberge, the classic French restaurant in a 250-year-old farmhouse off the main drag in New Hope.

The countdown has begun at La Bonne Auberge, the classic French restaurant in a 250-year-old farmhouse off the main drag in New Hope.

Rozanne and Gerard Caronello say Dec. 19 will be their last night after 38 years.

La Bonne Auberge is one of the few remaining dress-up spots in the region.

"It's my husband's knees," Rozanne Caronello said. "When I see him limping after work, I know we're doing the right thing." During a long, relaxing trip recently to mark their 40th anniversary, they noticed a difference.

The couple began downsizing the operation last year, cutting staff and trimming days to Thursdays through Sundays.

They plan to convert the dining room into its former use as a residence, and sell the furnishings and liquor license next year.

Free beer and cheese

Chef-owner John Brandt-Lee has been running assorted specials at Avalon (312 S. High St., West Chester, 610-436-4100), his cozy Italian BYOB. Perhaps the self-taught chef's most generous idea is his complimentary Friday night amuse-bouche, a pairing of cheese from Di Bruno's and local beer. Among recent comp offerings: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA with Caccio di Roma and truffle honey, and Victory Festbier with Piave cheese and grilled onion marmalade. Tomorrow's course is Troegs' Mad Elf with Cana de Cabra, a Spanish goat's-milk cheese. He puts the weekly selection on Facebook and Twitter.

Chef war

Nunzio Patruno (Nunzio Ristorante Rustico in Collingswood), Andrea Luca Rossi (of the soon-to-be Cichetteria 19), and Luciana Spurio (Le Virtú in South Philly) will battle at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Reading Terminal Market in an Iron Chef-style competition. All dishes will use radicchio rosso tardivo di Treviso IGP and radicchio variegato di Castelfranco IGP. (Indicazione Geografica Protetto means the produce is grown in Treviso, Padua, or Venice under supervision of the Consorzio Radicchio di Treviso.) John Vena Inc., which sells the radicchio, is sponsoring.

As for Cichetteria 19: Rossi, former director of operations for Girasole, recently took over Di Vino, near Rittenhouse Square at 267 S. 19th St. Rossi said the casual cuisine would be from his native Venice.

What's new

Chef Mark Smith of Collingswood's Tortilla Press has reopened Tortilla Press Cantina (7716 Maple Ave., Pennsauken, 856-356-2050), which he shut down 13 months ago after construction on the nearby Maple Avenue bridge threw things for a loop. Pennsauken has a liquor license and a lower-priced menu that blends American and Mexican dishes. It's open nightly Tuesdays through Sundays.

What's coming

MIXX - with martini glasses serving as each X - will be the name of the restaurant planned beneath Azie on Main in Villanova, in the lower level of the former Maia on Lancaster Avenue near the Blue Route. The casual comfort-fooder is due to open in January or February. Besides Azie on Main and the original Azie in Media, Win and Sutida Somboonsong also own Parker's Prime, Teikoku, Mikado Thai Pepper, and Flavor.

The state Liquor Control Board is saying "mid-January" for a wine shop, to carry 200 to 300 selections, that will be located in Garces Trading Co. (1111 Locust St.), the new cafe from Jose Garces.

Stephen Starr confirms that Mexican will be the concept of his restaurant coming to 2013 Chestnut St. and that Mexico City is the working name. Tacos al pastor, the south-of-the-border interpretation of Middle Eastern shawarma, will be the specialty. Its showpiece, he says, will be a tiny bar in the back room with a private entrance. Timetable has not been set.