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Rocco DiSpirito Leaving Restaurant

September 29, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) _ Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, who rose to national prominence in the reality TV series ``The Restaurant″ only to see the venture dissolve in legal acrimony with his partners, is leaving his other restaurant.

As of next week, DiSpirito, 37, will step down as executive chef at Union Pacific, the Gramercy Park restaurant where he first gained notoriety after it opened in 1997, DiSpirito and his partners said Tuesday. The restaurant will close at the end of the year.

DiSpirito said he intends to focus on opportunities outside the restaurant world.

``I found my culinary soul at Union Pacific and my collaboration with Main Street Restaurant Partners has been a great experience for me,″ DiSpirito said in a statement.

NBC chronicled the opening of Rocco’s 22nd Street, where DiSpirito’s mother became known for her meatballs, for two seasons. There has been an ongoing legal dispute among DiSpirito and owners Jeffrey Chodorow and China Grill Management, and the restaurant closed last week.

Chodorow’s group had sued DiSpirito in February over alleged mismanagement and financial losses. In July, DiSpirito was barred from the kitchen by a court order.


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