Strip-Mall Sipping

Taste and See moves to the north side. Plus, Greek Street Pizza becomes Cafe Italiano.

Kalan Piukkula and Joshua Swerin enjoying tea at Taste and See Tea - LORETTA SURMA
Loretta Surma
Kalan Piukkula and Joshua Swerin enjoying tea at Taste and See Tea

Don't be fooled by this north Spokane tearoom’s nondescript entrance in a generic strip mall. Walking through the double glass doors of Taste and See Tea is like opening a present. Inside, you’ll be instantly relaxed by the warm colors, ornate fabrics, and flowers on the tables. It just feels tranquil.

Owner Thada Ziegler created this environment not only for her customers but to help bring peace and order to the women from local shelters who work in the nonprofit tea room.

We first reported on Taste and See Tea two years ago when they opened on the lower South Hill.

“We outgrew our house on Ninth. Now we have triple the space,” says Ziegler. In addition to more parking, the new space is handicap-accessible and has a commercial kitchen, enabling Taste and See to add a walk-in bistro. Light lunch is offered with house-made soups, quiche, sandwiches and salads.

Tea-lovers will delight in the retail section, with over two dozen loose teas, china cups, drip catchers and everything else necessary for a civilized cup of tea.

They’re also able to do more on-site baking, and they have added a small gluten-free menu with a few lunch items and treats like chunky, frosted chocolate brownies.

In the adjacent tearoom, the tables are set with lace tablecloths, china cups and sterling silverware. Four-course teas ($20) are offered by reservation and include sandwiches, salads and goodies like tea-infused Berry Bliss Scones and handmade chocolate truffles served with unlimited tea.

Perhaps the greatest reward for Ziegler is watching the women grow. The program teaches more than just food-service skills. The women learn how to resolve conflict, deal with the public and gain practical life skills. “These ladies have confidence and are able go out and work somewhere else,” says Ziegler.

She’s changing the world, one cup of tea at a time. (Kirsten Harrington)

Taste and See Tea • 521 E. Holland Ave. • Open Tues-Sa. 9am - 4pm for light lunch, tea and pastries, or for formal tea by reservation only • 714-0097

Greek Goes Italian

Food is what spurred Peter Karatzas to leave his home on the tiny Greek island of Kalymnos. He left to receive formal culinary training in the Caribbean and then became a restaurant consultant in the United States.

But car trouble is what led him to open a restaurant.

After their family car broke down in Colville, Wash., says his son Vagelie Karatzas, the family decided to stay and open their first restaurant in the area. Now, having sold their Colville location after 18 years, the Karatzas family split their time between their Coeur d’Alene Greek Street restaurant and their new, revamped Spokane business Cafe Italiano (which was formerly also called Greek Street).

Cafe Italiano doesn’t initially draw the eye. It’s located in a northern Spokane strip mall, next to a Yoke’s. Inside, six tables occupy the perimeter of the small space, and the center of the restaurant is devoted to the massive oven and kitchen area. Each table has a view of the kitchen, where you can see Karatzas carefully crafting each dish.

Some may consider the exposed kitchen a detriment to the atmosphere, but witnessing Karatzas and his staff at work is part of the allure of Cafe Italiano. It’s kind of the same appeal as watching the Food Network, only you actually get to eat what you see.

Years in the restaurant industry have allowed the Karatzases to compile quite the menu. There are endless options for salads, appetizers, pastas, pizzas and calzones, as well as a vegetarian section. Unlike many restaurants, Cafe Italiano doesn’t rely on mounds of cheese and meat to compensate for low quality — something especially noticeable in their pizzas. Their Greek Street Special ($16-$20), for example, has pepperoni, pepperoncini, mushrooms, black olives, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh garlic and oregano. Each ingredient is balanced carefully, so as not to overpower the other flavors.

While the pizzas are popular, Vagelie says that living on Kalymnos has made seafood his father’s specialty, especially his Crab Gratinata ($18.95). The dish consists of crab meat, mushrooms and fresh garlic, all tossed in rigatoni noodles and Cafe Italiano’s creamy Alfredo sauce, then baked in the oven with cheeses.

Although the price points are a tad higher than other similar places in town, there’s no competing with the quality and authenticity of Cafe Italiano. (Tiffany Harms)

Café Italiano • 3331 W. Indian Trail Rd. • Open daily from 12-10 pm • 326-2559

Spring Market at the Pavilion @ Riverfront Park

Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. Continues through May 12
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