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Zutto - Le Poulet Rouge - Best Italian - Mai Thai

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Shuttered.

It was a grim Monday morning on the Food News front this week.

An e-mail from BW's favorite server at Zutto Japanese Restaurant confirmed that our office-away-from-the-office, aka Zutto, rolled up its sushi mat Saturday night. Sigh. Owners Kimberly Kohler and Atsushi Nakano followed up to say: "Zutto Japanese restaurant is closed after 11 years in business. Economic downfall prompted our closure. Please help us thank all of our loyal customers and thank you to the Boise Weekly staff for the free plugs here and there." Although we've certainly done our part to support the Main Street sushi restaurant over the last few months, apparently our weekly need for age tofu wasn't enough. And, like many of the restaurant's fans out there, we're wishing we'd had a few days notice on the closing to get our Zutto on one last time. For those of you with outstanding gift certificates, Kohler and Nakano will be doing the truly upstanding thing of refunding your money. (As someone with a substantial amount of gift certificates from other recently closed restaurants, I applaud them.) Call Kohler at 208-850-8208.

Just down from Zutto on Main Street, Le Poulet Rouge is also closed until further notice according to a sign on the eatery's door.

And the Winner for Best Local Italian Is ...

After a glitch in this year's online Best of Boise polling system resulted in the omission of a category for Best Local Italian Restaurant, I decided to conduct my own little informal poll. Admittedly, the results have surprised me.

So what's the final official unofficial tally? Drum roll, please ...

First place was a tie until a last-minute vote pushed Rotella's Trattoria on State Street into first place. That means second by a single vote goes to Eli's Italian Deli in Nampa, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in September. If—like me—you're scratching your head, then you better get out there and check them out. As I know not a thing about either restaurant, I'll be doing a little investigating in the near future to see what each of these little restaurants seems to be doing so well. Third place goes to Gino's, where chef owner Gino Vuolo has spent years teaching Boise that real Italian food isn't accompanied by the words "unlimited salad and breadsticks." Thanks to all who voted, and we promise that next year, you'll have the opportunity to vote on the best Italian restaurant along with the rest of Best of Boise.

Eli's Italian Deli, 122 12th Ave. S., Nampa, 208-466-8880. Gino's Ristorante, 150 N. Eighth St., Ste. 217, 208-331-3771. Rotella's Trattoria, 6882 W. State St., 208-853-0109.

Still Thai, Still Open

Mai Thai in downtown Boise sent an e-mail my direction this week to assure the restaurant's fans that the doors will remain open despite "some rumors about Mai Thai being on a list of restaurants that might be closing their doors," according to general manager Sean Barnes. Apparently this list is really making the rounds because as Barnes wrote, "customers, delivery persons and even employees have been asking" if the restaurant is calling it quits. The definitive answer is no. (Thanks be to the gods because then BW's staff would really be in food trouble.) Barnes went on to write, "We are faring well and thought that your readers might like some reassurance that all downtown restaurants are not closing."

Mai Thai, 750 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8424.

Forget Gallup, Order Up

The race for president continues at Franco Latino, where customers are encouraged to log their vote for president by ordering a martini named after their candidate of choice. What'll it be, the McCainapolitan or the Barackatini? Last week, the Barackatini pulled waaay ahead of its competition with a total of 58 to 37. This week, it doesn't look like there's been many John McCain fans imbibing martinis. With an final count at 68 to 37, Barack Obama is still ahead at the Eagle restaurant. Want to have your say? Order up.

Franco Latino, 775 S. Rivershore Ln., 208-938-2850.