Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty

DINING The Italian Returns & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & sk to have your meal served blackened-style at ARLO'S RISTORANTE and you might get a Mona Lisa smile from owners Tom and Lisa Guscott. Although they have a good sense of humor, no one was laughing when fire forced the closure of their Sandpoint restaurant last year.

"Smoke damage was worse than the fire," reports Tom, noting minor modifications made during reconstruction (they added a bathroom). The restaurant still seats about 100, evenly split between indoors -- with a spectacular view of Sand Creek -- and out, including al fresco dining along First and Cedar Streets.

Arlo's still serves "New York style" food its owners favored from Lisa's Greenwich Village background. That's where the couple met before relocating to Sandpoint in 1999 to raise a family, says Tom, who's originally from Spokane.

Lunch might be a salad or smaller portions of pasta ($5-$7). Panini sandwiches ($5-$7.50) go from the classic mozzarella, Roma tomato and basil to the "Forgetabowdit" -- prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and mixed greens. A beer and wine menu is available, and desserts like cannoli or cheesecake ($4) are good any time of day.

A friend and I made a meal of appetizers: artichoke hearts Francaise ($5) -- saut & eacute;ed with lemon, butter and white wine -- and Tuscana shrimp ($7), wrapped in proscuitto, saut & eacute;ed with olive oil, white wine, lemon and sun-dried tomatoes, and served with cannellini beans.

For dinner, try fusilli pasta Florentina with baby spinach and crimini mushrooms, ravioli, or -- something my Queens, N.Y.-based Aunt Florie used to make -- steak pizziola: tenderloin saut & eacute;ed with garlic, onions, peppers, white wine and marinara ($10-$15). There's also veal marsala, scallops azzura saut & eacute;ed with cream and topped with Gorgonzola and a mouth-watering seafood cioppino ($19-$20).

Tom calls Arlo's style "mom and pop" for its neighborhood feel. The cuisine, he says, is "shoemaker style" -- like the chicken and sausage scarparella, with hot and sweet sausage served with gnocchi ($15) -- named either for ingredients "cobbled" together or humble enough to feed a shoemaker's family.

So, after a six-month hiatus, Tom and Lisa are looking forward to celebrating their seven-year anniversary this fall, smiling and grateful to be back in business.


Arlo's Ristorante, 330 N. First Ave., Sandpoint, is open Mon-Thu 11 am-2 pm and 5-9 pm; Fri-Sat until 10 pm; Sunday 5-9 pm. Visit or call (208) 255-4186.

BEVERAGES 99 Bottles

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f you don't know Millwood well, then finding BOTTLES -- the new wine, beer and soda purveyor opened in May by Rocket Bakery owners Jeff and Julia Postlewait and several Rocket employees -- can be a challenge. It's next door to Rocket Bakery's "mother ship," but here's a better hint: When you're driving north on Argonne from I-90, and you get to the 7-Eleven, turn around; it's behind you.

"We'll get a better sign when we sell more wine," quips co-owner Julia Postlewait.

Currently, the only identifying mark is a near-invisible see-through sign on the front door, and even that was obscured by a row of parked cars. In the meantime they'll have a huge banner -- just as soon as Jeff Postlewait figures out how to attach it to the building.

Once inside, the company name speaks for itself. Shelves are filled with hundreds of bottles of wine (around 700 according to their count), beer (around 100 different kinds at the moment) and a growing collection of boutique sodas.

I recognized a handful of the wines as old friends, such as the viognier (here the 2007 vintage) from Chelan vintner Vin du Lac. New faces such as Layer Cake's 2006 Primitivo ($13), an Italian wine made from the same grape as the more widely known zinfandel, are sure to become good new friends.

While the shop has considerably fewer beer labels to choose from, the variety of brews is also amazing. Some, like Sierra Nevada, I've heard of and even tossed back on occasion. And sure, there are beers from Seattle-area microbreweries as one would expect, but the most intriguing are from places closer to home including Ellensburg and Centralia, Wash., and Ponderay, Idaho.

Every week, the shop offers beer, wine and sodas to sample. This week's wine samples include Pieces of Red from Whitestone Winery in Wilbur ($12), Pacific Rim Dry Riesling from California ($8) -- and I'm thinkin' we can all use some Sincerity, a white California table wine from Brassfield Winery ($11).

The sodas available for tasting include San Pellegrino Limonata and Cascade Ice Organic, while the beer being sampled is Sierra Nevada's Summerfest.

Can you say "free beer?"

-- M.C. PAUL

Bottles, 3319 N. Argonne Rd., Millwood, is open Mon-Thu 11 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-8 pm. Call 443-4027.

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