& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & h, Brooklyn -- it's one of a kind. Brooklyn's distinctive character is a blend of its cultural diversity, strong neighborhoods, cutting-edge art scene and historic architecture. New York City's most populous borough is also know for its delicatessens, Italian eateries and restaurants offering exotic fare from African to Chinese.
With a nod to Brooklyn, the city within a city, co-owner Dave Appelmann named his recently opened north-side restaurant BROOKLYN'S WOODFIRE GRILL. Appelmann says he wanted to honor his father, who grew up in Brooklyn.
The restaurant's d & eacute;cor is as brash as New York -- with bright, primary colors, splashes of neon, pop art a la Warhol decorating the walls, TVs in every corner and pop music playing in the large dining room. The adjoining bar is spacious, sporting more large TVs and sports banners hanging from the ceiling.
Appelmann has 24 years of restaurant experience and has owned the north-side Village Inn franchise for the past 20 years.
"I've always wanted to do my own restaurant aside from a franchise," Appelmann says. "The recipes are all my own, utilizing very fresh products. We cook everything over applewood so it has a slight smoky flavor -- like barbecue but better."
Some of the more popular menu items are the seared ahi tuna appetizer, sliced thin with hints of ginger, mustard and beer, and the crab cakes, which Appelmann says are made in-house with 90 percent crab meat. Just like a New Yorker, Appelmann is assertive about his dishes.
"We have unique salads you can't get anywhere else around here -- like the fiesta chicken," he proclaims. "Our steak line is one of the best in town -- high-end, certified Angus beef. Our prime rib is cooked on the bone and slow roasted. We use 100 percent ground chuck in our burgers, so you can eat them rare if you want to. And our fish is always fresh."
With price points ranging from $3 for a cup of soup (try the salmon chowder made with fresh salmon and veggies) to $38 for a porterhouse steak for two, Brooklyn's Woodfire Grill has something for everyone -- just like its namesake city.
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Brooklyn's Woodfire Grill, 9602 N. Newport Hwy., is open Sun-Thu 11 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight. Call 465-2755.
DINING Pies of Elegance
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & xpecting a mustachioed paisan singing "O solo mio" and tossing pies into the air? Forget about it. BAMBINO'S PIZZA AND GELATO is not your neighborhood pizza joint. Bambino's is upscale: gourmet cuisine served at linen-topped tables in comfortable elegance and generally crisp service. Price is upscale as well, although not unreasonable and, as owner Angelo Brunson says: "It's worth it."
Brunson's latest endeavor builds on the word-of-mouth success of his two-year-old Angelo's Ristorante, two blocks up Fourth Street in mid-town Coeur d'Alene. A former laundromat, Bambino's features bold yellow walls and matching tablecloths, diffused to warm gold via dimmed lighting and earthy accents. D & eacute;cor includes discreet Catholic imagery and the unmistakable stamp of Brunson's partner, Dana Musick (previous owner of Kellogg's Verandah Restaurant), namely oversized floral and villa-inspired canvases. Seating is cozy -- almost cramped along the bar facing the bustling, compact kitchen -- accommodating between 30 and 40.
Lunch is available starting at 11 am and includes grilled panini ($11-$14), as well as salads ($4-$18), antipasto ($9-$15) and soups ($4-$8). The starters alone are a meal: cannellini with porcini mushroom soup; La Costa salad (Dungeness crab, cured salmon, shrimp, fennel and mixed greens with lemon vinaigrette); or savory roasted prawns and scallops wrapped with prosciutto.
Dinner means Italian mainstays: pasta and "pizza" (and, surprisingly, $35 filet mignon) with a distinct twist. Pasta is gnocchi -- a sort of dumpling -- married with sauces featuring spinach, seafood, even carrot in a Gorgonzola cream sauce ($14-$25). Pizza is a thicker "pan-style" crust, with stone-ground or gluten-free wheat crust for $1 extra. Traditional red-sauce varieties are all $14 (our eggplant was tender with appropriately crisp edges and fragrant, just-melting goat cheese), while "white" styles are $12-$16, depending on toppings. "Flat bread" pizzas -- crust, toppings, no cheese -- are $10-15. Gelato, a denser yet lower-calorie ice cream, is the featured dessert, and coffee is served in a French compression decanter... pricey but your date will be impressed if you can pour it without spilling.
Speaking of dates, you'll want to make reservations at this new locale where pronouncing the names of the abundant offerings is half the fun.
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
Bambino's Pizza and Gelato, 726 N. 4th St., Couer d'Alene, is open Sun-Thu 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Call (208) 765-0100.