& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & pring is the time to visit Italy, according to those in the know, but Italy means great food and wine any time of year. That's the inspiration for the new Italian-nuanced menu at Luna, the dining institution high on Spokane's South Hill.
After 14 years of dishes inspired by the Great Northwest, it's a bit of a change, but not too far out of character. Much of Luna's character comes from owners William and Marcia Bond and draws from their travels and dining experiences -- and that's the case with the recent changes, says Chef Dave Radford.
"The nice thing about our restaurant is that our owners are open to embracing new ideas," he says. "They have the luxury of having traveled through Italy a lot, and they like authentic Italian foods."
Radford and his kitchen staff have been adapting some of those authentic flavors for Luna's menu. The first round of changes began around Valentine's Day, and more items for spring will be added soon after Easter, he says.
"For the next evolution, we would like to move further, toward a fresher, more youthful menu," says Radford. "We've been here so long that we've become a destination restaurant. Now we would really like to reinvent the menu."
The wine list is as extensive as ever, but with a new focus on Italian wines by the glass. The dinner menu now has a pasta section, and there's handmade gnocchi with sole on the seafood side.
The changes are less obvious on the lunch menu, but you'll find a greater selection of pizzas ($12 to $14) baked in the applewood-fired oven, along with more pasta plates (spaghetti and oven-roasted meatballs, and a spaghetti carbonara with bacon and peas). Another fun option is the piadine ($8) -- a version of the classic Italian peasant lunch of saut & eacute;ed greens with cheese (Gorgonzola here), onions and flat bread.
But fear not, Luna regulars: many favorites remain. Like the crab and butternut squash bisque. And the salad sampler plate. And the BLT on focaccia made with Kansas City bacon. And the coconut curry crusted prawns. And under sunny spring skies, the garden and patio await.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Luna, 5620 S. Perry St., is open Mon-Sat, 11 am-10 pm, Sun 9 am-10 pm. Visit www.lunaspokane.com or call 448-2383.
SHOPPING Booster Rocket
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & ver since the Rocket Market opened up on 43rd Avenue back in 1999, the place has been a warren of grocery treasures and surprising finds, with tight aisles and unusual items packed cheek by jowl in the old automotive garage. Co-owners Alan Shepherd and his wife Shanda have had their office in the mop closet for all these years. The cramped quarters have been part of the Market's charm, says Shepherd.
"It has that East Coast feel, like the kind of neighborhood market where people stop by and shop every day," he says.
But now the Market is expanding, as anyone who drives past its corner has known for months. The construction should be done in about a month, Shepherd projects, then he'll take some time to re-map the store, doing it "by feel," like he's done most things in the Market's history.
But there are a few knowns. The former patio is becoming a glassed-in seating area that will be available year-round; a big new storage room -- complete with walk-in cooler -- is going up at the building's east end. A new patio will wrap around the building's northeast corner (summer music nights will continue on Tuesdays and Saturdays), and Shepherd will finally get a true office above the storage space.
Inside, the expansion means more space for frozen foods, chilled wine and beer, and more meat and deli items. "We're definitely still a neighborhood store, but the expansion allows us to be full service," he says. "We've figured out how to do a lot in a small space, but everything is driven by what the customers want. I couldn't pick a better spot in Spokane."
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Rocket Market, 726 E. 43rd Ave., is open 6
am-11 pm daily. Visit www.rocketmarket.com or call 343-2253.