DINING Calling Popeye & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here's a new little place on the South Hill, tucked in behind the stores and restaurants of 29th Avenue, and it's a quiet refuge with tasty light meals and a comfortable atmosphere. Paula Horning opened OLIVE OILZ in August after sprucing up the space with warm butter-toned walls, stained glass accents and custom-designed metal sconces engraved with the letter Z. The cozy eatery only seats 24, and sitting inside feels more like dropping in at Horning's home than dining out.
"I just wanted a nice little neighborhood place," she says, "something different with different flavors, different wines, different beers than you find elsewhere in Spokane."
Horning grew up in Spokane but spent many years in San Francisco working in all phases of the restaurant business there. Family connections drew her back to Spokane, and this year she decided it was time to dive into ownership, inspired by a place in San Francisco that specialized in panini and focaccia sandwiches.
The menu is casual, with mostly Italian-inspired flavors. You'll find several antipasti, including crostini, grilled shrimp and tempura green beans. Panini ($7-$8) come in grilled flatbread while the hot focaccia sandwiches ($8-$9) -- choices include Italian sausage, saut & eacute;ed chicken breast, meatballs and grilled eggplant -- are served on thicker, more traditional raised bread. Two different salads ($7) and a home-style soup of the day ($2.50, cup; $3.50, bowl), served with La Brea bread from the Bay Area, round out the menu.
On a drizzly evening, I tried the soup and half-sandwich special ($7): Italian wedding soup, with pearl pasta and tiny meatballs in a savory chicken and beef stock, and a panino of sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto, all complemented by a cab-Syrah blend from San Juan Vineyards. (Olive Oilz has a full liquor license.) The dessert special was a luscious cake made with mascarpone cheese and limoncello liqueur and served with balsamic-macerated strawberries.
Horning's personable style gives a warm, welcoming feeling to the tiny caf & eacute;, and conversations bounce around the room. A vintage cash register, circa 1916 and on loan from one of Horning's friends, holds a prominent place at the bar.
Sometime in October, Horning plans to add three or four entr & eacute;es to the dinner menu, but even now Olive Oilz offers a casual, comfortable alternative for South Hill dining.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Olive Oilz, at 2812 E. 30th Ave., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm. Call 535-3104.
DINING Idaho or Italy? & r & & r &
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he glass is always full at THREE GLASSES, Sandpoint's newest wine bar/restaurant. Their Italian chef was delayed due to pesky passport issues, but owners Darcy and John Peters persevered. With advance buzz aplenty, Three Glasses held a "soft" opening this summer (sans chef). Managerial changes and further delays (a specialized pizza oven is on order) have not stopped this dynamic duo from making the place a local favorite.
Reminiscent of Coeur d'Alene's acclaimed subterranean Wine Cellar, Three Glasses blends sophistication with Old World charm. The space is long and narrow, culminating in a large dance floor and stage, most nights occupied by the piano player. Sunday offers classical music while on weekends, larger-name acts like Amelia White request a modest cover charge. Teak and dark woods gleam in subtle light from candles and suspended globes. Plush, full-length curtains of dark velvet soften areas along the bar and cozy seating banks that flank the dance floor. Even the double entry (off-street, downstairs and through another door to be greeted by a host) has a big-city feel to it.
The tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked bread, savory meat and an abundance of spices wafts from the kitchen. Finally arrived from Torino, Italy, Chef Luigi Ornagh accents his native Northern Italian cooking with classical French training and a flair for incorporating local ingredients like morel mushrooms and trout. The Priest River organic greens ($7) -- about 30 varieties including flowers -- was a fresh, light accompaniment to the (house-made, of course) ravioli del plin in sage and beef sauce ($18). The braised pork shank with huckleberry sauce ($24) slid off the bone and was easily enough for two.
For informal dining, Three Glasses serves snacks like warm prosciutto-wrapped prunes or crostini with tomato, basil and anchovies ($6), small plates like the rabbit and pancetta rolls with warm mushroom ragout ($15) or chef's choice of charcuterie and cheese plate ($16). Desserts vary, too, including cr & egrave;me brulee or chocolate and amaretti flan ($6) served with stout coffee or any of the 300-plus wines.
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
Three Glasses, 202-1/2 N. First Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, is open Tue-Thu and Sun, 4:30-10:30 pm, Fri-Sat 4:30-11 pm. Call (208) 265-0230.