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Counter Offer

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Ciao Bella, in the former Lulu Grille location on Erin Drive, is now offering a late-night menu on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when it stays open until midnight. Sirloin sliders, Spiro's gyro, gourmet mini pizzas, and the "Abe Froman," a spicy Italian sausage served on a French roll, are a few of the menu items, all of which are priced under $9.

Ciao Bella is an Italian and Greek family affair. Judd Tashie, the restaurant's co-owner, says Mediterranean best describes his family's roots and style. This heritage will be reflected again in Tashie's latest venture. With his dad, Paul, and cousin, David, Tashie is planning to open Carmela's Little Italy in the space adjacent to Ciao Bella in October.

Carmela's, a specialty food store and deli named after Tashie's grandmother, will carry Greek and Italian items, such as olive oil, pasta, cheeses, and meats. The store also will offer a variety of prepared foods as well as simple lunch fare and sandwiches from the deli.

"We want to be a gourmet store but also offer our customers Ciao Bella food that they can take home and heat up for a family dinner," Tashie explains.

For more information about Carmela's Little Italy, visit ciaobellamemphis.com.

Ciao Bella, 565 Erin Drive (205-2500)

Staff Outings

Paul Gerald, a former Flyer staffer who now calls Portland, Oregon, his home, believes the essence of a place can be discovered if you know "how and where it eats breakfast."

When Gerald regularly wrote travel features for the Flyer, he often wrote about the meals he ate to tell stories about the places and people he visited.

"I like breakfast, and that's why some of those stories center around that first meal of the day," Gerald says.

When eating breakfast at Beaterville Café in Portland one morning, Gerald realized he hadn't investigated his new home yet. And because the options in Portland are endless, Gerald decided to write a book rather than a newspaper article.

For the project, Gerald ate about 200 breakfasts at more than 100 restaurants. His self-published book, Breakfast in Bridgetown (Bacon and Eggs Press), will be available this week from his website, breakfastinbridgetown.com. The book includes descriptions, anecdotes, and the basic facts — addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation — of 95 breakfast places in Portland.

"I'm not a food critic, and I don't rate the restaurants in my book," Gerald says. "There are two types of breakfasts as far as I'm concerned: memorable and non-memorable." (He did, for the record, find out which coffee each restaurant serves, an important stat for Portlanders.)

breakfastinbridgetown.com

Other Flyer folks revealing their foodie stripes: freelance photographer Justin Fox Burks, staff writer Bianca Phillips, and wine columnist Michael Hughes.

Chubby Vegetarian is an online record of Burks' artful vegetarian dishes. The site includes photographs and recipes as well as Burks' reflections on tertiary topics, such as the perfect pizza, shopping at Winchester Farmers Market, and what to do with stolen apples. If you are a vegetarian who needs new meal ideas or a newbie who doesn't know how to cook without meat, check out Burks' blog for inspiration.

chubbyvegetarian.blogspot.com

In her blog Vegan Crunk, Bianca Phillips shares the good and the not-so-good sides of being a vegan, plus vegan-centric recipes and links. Growing up in the Mississippi Delta on "cornbread, butter beans, collard greens, and Paula Deen," Phillips is on a mission of veganizing Southern and soul-food staples and eventually collecting her recipes in a cookbook. Reading her blog, you'll discover that vegan fare can be exciting and delicious. Who can resist caramelized fig spread on an "everything" bagel?

vegancrunk.blogspot.com

In Midtown Stomp, Michael Hughes muses about the aroma of dried apricots and pineapples, peaches and white pepper, simple foods, local wine lists, and wine and food pairings. Hughes also reveals the treasures of his "cellar" and explores food and wine during dinners at home and at local and out-of-town restaurants. Don't know what wine to have with dinner tonight? Check out this site, and you'll be sure to come away with a few ideas.

midtownstomp.blogspot.com

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