"The Tuscan ambiance is unexpected," says Medlen, who designed and decorated the restaurant.
The menu reflects healthy Mediterranean fare. Lunch offerings include the Totally Italiano (with cotto salami, cappacolla, proscuitto, provolone and gouda cheeses on foccacia bread) and the Bollito (slow-roasted beef and sun-dried tomato aoli, red onion, tomato and spinach on kalamata olive bread). If your tastes run a bit more European, Rocco's Reuben (house-roasted corned beef, grilled onion, sauerkraut and Gorgonzola on marbled rye) or the Satriano (smoked turkey, Gouda, tomato, red onion and garlic-sage aoli on potato bread) should satisfy. Whole or half sandwiches come with a choice of pasta salad, cup of soup or green salad. The in-house soups range from sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic bulb cream to pecan with ham.
Dinner begins with soups du jour, appetizers (like grilled goat cheese with bruchetta, caramelized onion and roasted red-pepper coulis) and salads (from spinach to Nicoise with charbroiled yellowfin tuna). Entrees include four pasta dishes, including basil and rosemary spaghetti and meatballs with signature marinara sauce and oven-roasted sausage roulade with house marinara, seasoned ricotta and fresh rosemary. Other choices run the gamut from pan-seared swordfish with tomato ragout to oven-roasted eggplant Napoleon layered high with tomato, bell pepper and fresh basil.
"Chef Joe Wasson's presentations are absolutely art," Medlen proclaims. Wasson's background at the Steam Plant Grill and the Garden Grill along with sous chef James St. George's experience at Catacombs Pub bring an impressive array of talent to Scarpello's.
Medlen says her Italian grandmother, whose surname was Scarpello, was the inspiration for this restaurant.
"There's nothing in the Valley like this," Medlen says. "The most common thing we hear from our customers is 'This is just what the Valley needed!'"
Scarpello's, 11808 E. Sprague (between Bowdish and Pines), is open Mon-Thurs 11 am-9 pm, Fri 11 am-10 pm, Sat 9 am-10 pm. Call 893-9410.
Moving North & r & "I love old buildings, and I wanted to keep this one's character," says Jerry Heggestad, owner of Club North and Aces Casino, which recently relocated from the Valley to the North Side. The familiar barn-shaped building at the corner of Francis and Division, which for many years was Solicitors' Corner and for a short while John Michael's Restaurant, now houses the new casino and restaurant.
Heggestad and his partner Jack Duncan have retained the distinctive dark wood interior decor accented with hunter green, including the vintage wooden bar and fireplace mantle that dominate either end of the restaurant. Tables line the large windows looking out onto the busy street.
Both Heggestad and Duncan are poker players, which explains the casino part. Oh, and they also own Players and Spectators in the Valley, which explains why the recently acquired Aces Casino relocated. After all, it's not easy competing with yourself for business. And their gaming business is bustling, with poker's rise in popularity on TV.
And while players 21 and older are having fun at Aces with games from three-card poker and Blackjack to Spanish 21 and Fortune Pie Gow, they can also indulge their taste buds. Club North's menu is similar to that of Players and Spectators. Expecting to cater to a classier, professional clientele, Heggestad and Duncan have created a menu with international flavors.
Club North entrees include Kung Pao stir-fry and seafood enchiladas. Blackened sirloin fettuccine, chicken Dijon, slow-roasted prime rib and halibut with Dungeness crab are other enticing dishes. Beef and chicken burgers, French dip and Monte Cristo sandwiches, Cobb and smoked salmon spinach salad -- as well as appetizers like ale-battered mushrooms and steak fingers -- are also featured. Starting this week, Club North will also be open for breakfast.
And what happened to the former Aces Casino? Heggestad and Duncan have turned it into an authentic Mexican restaurant. Diners can get everything from breakfast quesadillas and fried empanadas (bananas) to carne asada (grilled steak) and pescado Veracruz (mahi-mahi wrapped in banana leaf) at El Jaripeo. A few pool tables are all that remain of the former casino.
Club North and Aces Casino, 6301 N. Division, is open daily from 6 am-1 am. Call 892-5242. El Jaripeo, 10001 E. Sprague, is open Mon-Fri 10 am-9 pm, Sat 10 am-1 am, and Sun 11 am-6 pm. Call 892-5906.
Scoopin' It Up & r & Nothing's better on a hot summer day than ice cream. And it's even better when it's handmade. The Scoop, a neighborhood ice cream shop on South Perry Street, has long had the goods -- now it's delivering them, too.
Since Andrew Sackville-West (of Far West Billiards) and Patrick Sullivan took the reins of the Scoop last month, they've already got plans for expansion. The Scoop still offers Brain Freeze Ice Cream, a premium, "high-fat, high-quality, high-priced" product, as its slogan announces. And the flavors are still most excellent and constantly rotating -- Mexican chocolate, cake mix (it's better than licking the bowl), banana with chocolate peanut butter, peppermint bark and lemon sorbet. Best of all, Sackville-West and Sullivan plan to open more small, neighborhood ice cream parlors throughout Spokane.
"Our goal is to provide quality ice cream in your neighborhood -- not down the street at some mall or in a commercial district that demands a car," Sullivan says.
While you're waiting for a Scoop shop to appear in your neighborhood, keep an eye out for the Scoop Truck. The 1965 International Harvester Metro delivery van is a Scoop on wheels that delivers luscious ice cream to parties, farmers' markets, festivals and outdoor events in the Spokane area.
The Scoop, 1004 S. Perry St., is open Mon-Fri 1-9 pm, Sat 11 am-9 pm, and Sun 3-9 pm. Call 535-7171.
Restaurant Roundup & r & A favorite downtown restaurant is back! C.I. Shenanigan's reopened just this week after a nine-month hiatus. Chef Scott McLean is back at the helm as executive chef, with assistance from Chef Jake Baylock. The popular menu hasn't changed. From fresh oysters to firecracker salmon rolls, from whiskey chicken to potato-crusted halibut, it's all there just like before. And you can still get that wonderful clam chowder as well as Sunday brunch.
C.I. Shenanigan's, 332 N. Spokane Falls Ct., is open Mon-Thurs 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 11:30 am-11 pm, and Sun 10 am-9 pm. Call 455-6690.
Speaking of brunch, you don't have to wait for special occasions like Mother's Day to indulge in an order-off-the-menu brunch. Clinkerdagger now offers Sunday brunch every week. Whether you like your brunch classic with eggs Benedict or breakfast Wellington (eggs, ham and Swiss cheese in puff pastry, drizzled with smoked Gouda sauce) or exotic with spiced prawn and mango salad or cheese blintzes, Clinkerdagger has it all on Sundays from 11:15 am-2 pm.
And the restaurant in the Flour Mill also offers "first seating" dining, which includes a three-course meal and beverage for under $20. Monday-Saturday from 4-5:30 pm and Sundays from 2-5 pm, diners can choose from entrees like almond-crusted sea scallops and roasted pork tenderloin.
Clinkerdagger is at 621 W. Mallon Ave. Call 328-5965.
Catacombs has a new manager who's adept at juggling. Oleg Baron was a professional acrobat in the Ukraine, but decided instead to switch professions and try restaurant management. Catacombs' Central European cuisine and d & eacute;cor is a perfect fit for Baron. And there's more news: The underground restaurant is offering four new lunch combos -- from Florentine panini with turkey and pesto to Hungarian Goulash -- served with soup or salad, beverage and dessert for under $10.
Catacombs, at 110 S. Monroe St., is open Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm, Sun-Thurs 5-10 pm, and Fri-Sat 5-11 pm. Call 838-4610.