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The Inlander Staff & r & & r & CHURCHILL'S & r & & r & Churchill's aims to do one thing: provide you with the best beef you've ever tasted. And these are some seriously pampered cuts of meat. The restaurant's interior harks back a century, with a pianist at the shiny baby grand under an enormous crystal chandelier. Servers whisk about in tuxedoes with brocade vests, promoting the notion that dining out is serious and elegant business. All the beef at Churchill's is seared in an 1,800-degree broiler to seal in juices and lock in flavor. The first bite of steak was swoon-worthy -- sumptuously rich and impossibly tender. But both the New York strip ($34) and the 24-ounce Cowboy steak ($49) were underdone. Plates come with snap peas and garlic mashed potatoes, and you can upgrade with additional sides for $7 each. The butter lettuce salad ($7) was pretty, with the leaves left whole, forming a bowl with shredded beets, candied walnuts and goat cheese. Desserts -- like the decadent and buttery four-layer coconut cake ($7 each) -- are made by the owner's wife. The servers were exceptionally knowledgeable and efficient. But a special-occasion restaurant, with prices in the big leagues, needs to offer perfection on the plate as well. 165 S. Post St., 74-PRIME (747-7463) (LM)





Villaggio


The ambiance at Villaggio (Italian for village) is upscale: a dozen dark wood tables, folded white cloth napkins, little red table candles, new age/fusion jazz background music. Pizzas from the brick wood-fired oven are the tasty highlight, like the Vegetariano ($15) -- a 12-inch, irregularly shaped platform for a thin layer of tomato sauce and a gardeners' feast of caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke and millimeter-thin slices of zucchini. The caramelized onions add a layer of texture and flavor to the Insalata Villaggio ($10), with arugula, pear slivers, walnuts, gorgonzola and fig balsamic vinaigrette. A fully stocked bar serves wine, martinis and other mixed drinks. If you judge pizza by the inches per dollar, Villaggio might disappoint you. But if your judgment is based more on quality than quantity, you'll find a nice experience. 2013 E. 29th Ave., 532-0327 (DN)





Wolf Lodge Steakhouse


Some of the steakiest steaks in the Inland Northwest can be found a short drive east of Coeur d'Alene along I-90. Rubbed in seasoning, cooked over an open fire and delivered with a genuine attention to doneness, these thick slabs of beef are offered in enough combinations of cuts ($19 for a top sirloin to $56 for the steak and lobster) to meet any challenging appetite. Freshly made, home-style accompaniments are absolutely pleasing. If anyone has room when the meal is done, the chocolate cake is legendary -- check it out as waitresses in skimpy cowgirl garb deliver slices to the packed crowd of locals and Interstaters. 11741 E. Frontage Rd., Coeur d'Alene (I-90, exit 22), (208) 664-6665 (MD)





ISABELLA'S RESTAURANT AND GIN JOINT


The extensive menu emphasizes classic American fare, cleanly executed with simple flavors, plenty of garlic and not a lot of fuss. It's not trendy, but that's OK -- a little black dress isn't trendy either. The house salad is a highlight, with mixed greens, cucumber, bleu cheese, walnuts and pears in a lightly sweet vinaigrette. The seafood-stuffed rib-eye steak ($24) could serve two easily and is almost too rich, but the saut & eacute;ed scallops ($18) with fresh pasta are sublime. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves, sharing good food and drink in an atmosphere conducive to conversation. You won't find Bogie at the bar, but Isabella's is a gin joint worth walking into. 21 W. Main Ave., 624-0660 (AC)

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