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State of Grace Chef Sued by Ciao Bello Owner Tony Vallone

Ciao Bello owner Tony Vallone said executive chef Bobby Matos violated his noncompete clause.

Inside State of Grace
Inside State of Grace
Jay Tovar

Just weeks after the highly celebrated opening of Ford Fry's homecoming restaurant State of Grace in River Oaks, executive chef Bobby Matos found himself in the midst of an ugly-ish lawsuit. Tony Vallone, Matos' former boss at Ciao Bello, alleged that Matos is in violation of his contract's noncompete clause by working at "competing business" State of Grace. Vallone also accuses Matos of poaching Ciao Bello staff members for the State of Grace team, and adapting "proprietary recipes" for the new menu. And it got even more pointed than that. Vallone filed a temporary restraining order, asking State of Grace to stop serving seven dishes that felt to close to home: white bolognese with garganelli pasta, grilled shrimp with lime broth, beignets, oxtail tortellini, burrata salad, Gulf Coast Cobb salad and scallops with crispy squid rice.

Bobby Matos disputed all claims by Vallone. And The Pass & Provisions chef-owner Terrence Gallivan backed him up with an affidavit statement "In my opinion, these two restaurants serve entirely different cuisines. Ciao Bello is definitely Italian. State of Grace is not Italian. In my estimation, the food at State of Grace is influenced by the American South, Texas and Tex-Mex cuisines."

On November 6, the judge shot down Vallone's request for State of Grace to immediately pull dishes from its menu.

At this point, the lawsuit appears to be a non issue. Vallone told CultureMap "There is no lawsuit." Matos remains at the helm of the State of Grace kitchen. And a PR rep for State of Grace said today that the "lawsuit was dropped." Eater operatives are investigating to confirm that all has been resolved. Stay tuned for updates.

Ciao Bello

5161 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 77056 (713) 960-0333 Visit Website

State of Grace

3258 Westheimer Road, , TX 77098 (832) 942-5080 Visit Website