The Inlander Staff & r & & r & CIAO MAMBO & r & & r & Ciao Mambo has figured out the formula for success as sort of a sexier Tomato Street. Yet they boast a wine list of nearly 40 domestic and imported red and white varieties. Part of a small chain that originates in Montana, Ciao Mambo has an Olive Garden feel that may appeal to many diners: It's got brightly colored walls, Rat Pack music in the background, and a well-rounded menu of appetizers, soup and salad, pasta, pizza, kids' portions and even dessert. The cozze (mussels) was wonderfully done, with a hearty and flavorful fish stock and perfectly al dente linguine. The fresh basil tempered the savory stock, and the mussels -- more than a dozen of them -- were nicely done. The insalata di melanzane alla parmigiana ($13) was also wonderful on an earlier visit: thick slices of eggplant, a smoky-earthy flavor and thick cheese. Pizzas are done brick-oven style and include nine styles plus the option to build your own. 8166 N. Government Way, Coeur d'Alene, (208) 772-9555 (CS)


We were pleased when the Little Garden Caf & eacute; across the street from Spokane's Audubon Park opened its doors because the neighborhood needed a gathering place within walking distance. On a recent rainy afternoon we ordered two sandwiches and a salad and headed for a window seat to play a game. The server soon came with a plate of Tuscan salad -- spring greens, black and Kalamata olives, chunks of chicken, artichoke hearts and feta cheese, topped with vinaigrette. The artichoke hearts and the Kalamatas really stood out. Our garlic chicken and beef-and-Swiss sandwiches ($6.75) were good, but both would have been better with a bit more pesto. Little Garden is open mainly for breakfast and lunch. But it has a fully equipped playroom for kids, and it's a great place to relax. 2901 W. Northwest Blvd., 328-5500 (DN)


You'll find 20 taps here, and about 50 more beers in bottles behind the bars. Waddell's serves two variations on the wood wrap: steak and chicken. The meat is spiced and marinated while nearly paper-thin pieces of wood (hickory for the former, cherry for the latter) are soaked in water. The meat is then cooked inside the wood, making it moist and chewy and permeated with wood smoke. Unfurl the thing, fork the meat and dip it into the sauces: a delicious teriyaki for the steak, a nice sesame vinaigrette for the chicken. Very impressive. And we tried the "That's a Tasty Burger" -- one-third of a pound of beef sandwiched with jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and a hell of a lot of that mysterious Squirrelly Beaver seasoning. The flavor was explosive. The taste lingered and grew. 4318 S. Regal St., 443-6500 (JS)


An assortment of appetizers is always a good sign and we began with the Ahi-Cado, a large plate of sesame seed-seared ahi tuna with ripe avocado, wasabi aioli and pickled ginger. It was satisfying and beautifully presented. I've had the grilled steelhead on a previous trip, so this time we chose the New Zealand lamb chops: Three juicy little chops -- perfectly seared outside with a faintly warm center -- came topped with a tangy cracked-pepper mustard sauce. The sauce had plenty of bite and was as good on the roasted baby red potatoes as the lamb. The potatoes were soft inside, lightly crispy outside and boasted a nice fragrance of rosemary. The green beans were mostly fresh, and abundant. Service was solid. The availability of a lunch menu with goodies like the pulled-pork Cuban sandwich, Mediterranean salad, and grilled portabella with cambozola cheese are compelling reasons to return. 1710 N. Fourth St., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 664-1774 (CS)


Dinner at Lovitt is like dinner at a friend's house, if your friend is an accomplished cook who uses only the freshest local ingredients and puts them together into simple, hearty dishes. The menu is relatively small, changing as the many locally sourced foods move in and out of season, with salads and soups offered a la carte. The Caesar features crunchy Romaine lettuce dressed with real Caesar dressing -- mild on the garlic and anchovy, but rich with the flavor and unforgettable texture of farm-fresh eggs - and garnished with wafer-thin crisps from the complimentary French rolls. The Lovitt burger, a patty of grass-finished beef topped with Cougar Gold cheddar, caramelized onions, tomato and lettuce, comes with crisply roasted wedges of potatoes from nearby Olsen Farm. The chocolate bonbons ($6) make a light dessert that's easy to share. Lovitt Restaurant delivers superb dining in a refreshing get-out-of-town setting. 149 Hwy. 395 S, Colville, Wash., (509) 684-5444. (AC)

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