by Leah Sottile

When you mop up the last bits of 74th Street Gumbo at the Elk, you're doing it with Genova. Or when you bite into your roast beef and havarti at Domini's, that's them, too. From the light croissants at Huckleberry's to the dinner rolls at Clinkerdagger's and the Grilled Lamb Sandwich at Moon Time, you'll find you're biting into freshly baked local breads at many of the Inland Northwest's best eateries. And a lot of it comes from a little place called Genova.

In fact, the Genova Bread Company has been around baking their coveted loaves for the past two and a half years -- it's their cafe that's brand new. The baking operation is housed in the space where Fugazzi used to have a bakery and cafe on North Monroe. The old menu for the Off-Broadway Bistro still hangs there, its chalk-drawn illustrations now covered in a layer of the flour that hangs in light clouds around the ovens and baking pans. As we walk through, shelves upon shelves of unbaked dough sit waiting for the oven, and one baker is furiously kneading each ball into a baguette or roll.

But the cafe? That's directly next door in an old bail bonds office, and by looking around, you'd really never know it was ever anything besides a cafe. The modest space is modern and clean, with one scarlet wall running the length of the cafe, and a dozen metal chairs and tables filling the space. An espresso machine whirs at the counter, with announcements of eggnog latte specials littered about the counter. A dessert case filled with Nanaimo and coconut bars is here, too. A chalkboard with Genova's special sandwiches and salads hangs on the opposite wall, boasting creations filled with prosciutto, salami, provolone and mozzarella. And it's clear here that the focus of each sandwich is the bread. That's their specialty at Genova, says owner Cirro Royster.

"I worked with the breads that I make and came up with the sandwiches," he says.

Hailing from the actual Genova, Italy, Royster is focused on the Mediterranean -- with sandwiches ranging from the thinly sliced prosciutto and salami Genovese sandwich, to the delectable grilled Roman sandwich, lined with ham and other Italian meats on a thick slab of Genova's focaccia bread.

"You have to go the extra mile to find the resources and find these [ingredients]," he says about finding quality Italian meats and cheeses in Spokane.

Royster got his start making bread alongside his mother in Italy. She's the reason that he knows everything that he does about breads, in fact. He makes his breads simply, providing exceptional versions of favorite breads. "Most of the breads are just flour and water, and then we add flavors to them," he says.

For sale at the cafe are a number of loaves of bread, sliced and whole. There are your standards: baguettes and peasant bread, pane rustico and foccacia ($2.89). But there are more gourmet breads as well: potato rosemary, garlic sun-dried tomato and kalamata olive ($3.99). The Dakota bread is a "24-hour bread," Royster says, meaning it takes a whole day, from mixing the dough to baking the bread, to produce a loaf. It's a whole wheat bread filled with sunflower seeds, cracked wheat, grains and craisins ($4.39). Genova also makes an aromatic Apple Raisin Walnut bread for the same price.

They're still small, and Royster knows that he plays second fiddle to other bread makers in town like HearthBread Bakehouse. But Royster doesn't seem to feel threatened -- he is confident in how devoted Genova is to making good bread and satisfying his customers.

"For somebody like Domini's, who wants their bread delivered fresh every day," he says, "they go with us."

From Luna to Mizuna -- As a favorite for all local eaters, regardless of their preference (meaning meat eaters, veggies and vegans), Mizuna has always made our bellies happy with yummies like their yellowfin tuna and Thai noodle salads. And it's always prepared with such passion and precision. For the past year and a half, that's been because of the work of Chef Joe Stiles. He's leaving for a three-month trip to Europe, and then he'll be attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York after that. Good luck, Joe!

He's leaving big shoes, and owner Sylvia Wilson has replaced him with a chef with just as much talent. Brian Hutchins will step into Mizuna's kitchen. He formerly was the chef at Luna, then opened Brix in Coeur d'Alene and then worked at White House Crawford in Walla Walla, Wash. He was also asked to compete for the James Beard Award in New York.

Hutchins' new dinner menu is already online, and it flaunts his diversity in a variety of different areas. For starters, he has included a Gorgonzola, Balsamic Onion and Spinach-Filled Quesadilla to the appetizer menu. And on the entree side of things, Hutchins has added some mouth-watering options. There's an Heirloom Pumpkin Risotto with Chanterelles, a Duck Breast and Confit, a Savory Autumn Stew of butternut squash and other organic vegetables, and a Grilled Oregon Country Hanger Steak (hormone-free). Oops, I think I just drooled.

Mizuna is located at 214 N. Howard St., and is open for lunch on Monday-Friday from 11:30 am-2:30 pm, and for dinner on Tuesday-Saturday from 5-9 pm. Call: 747-2004.

It's Definitely Wine Time -- Judging from the number of wine events going on around town, we can only assume that drinking away your winter woes is going into full effect. Are we right?

You can start by learning wine from its very origins with Dr. James Hoffman. He'll teach you about the history of the drink and the different vintages you can look for during classes on Thursday evenings through Nov. 11. Classes are $50 and are held at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute, 711 S. Cowley St. Call 838-3577 ext. 142.

Soulful Soups (117 N. Howard St.) will host an Italian wine dinner this Saturday, Nov. 6, at 6:30 pm. They'll pour great wines and serve the Mediterranean foods that complement them. Tickets are $35. Call 459-1190.

And if you've been attending the weekly wine tastings at Niko's, you might be getting good at all this. Maybe you were thinking of going pro. Well, now's your chance. Seattle's Michael Brown will teach you how during a sampling of wines from around the world. That class will be held on Nov. 8 at 6 pm at the Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave., and costs $40. Call 838-1229.

Publication date: 11/04/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...