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There’s no shortage of choices for dining at the intersection of Poplar and Mendenhall. For example, Café Toscana opened May 23rd in the shopping center next to Malco’s Paradiso cinema.
Chef and owner Giacomo Ciabattini went to cooking school in Florence, Italy, where he was born. After working for a restaurant there for about 10 years, Ciabattini moved to the United States in 1984, working first in California, where he opened his own restaurant in San Francisco in 1994. He then joined Romano’s Macaroni Grill to work in menu development and met his wife, Lea, a Memphis native. He later did menu development for the Olive Garden and was able to spend three months out of the year in Tuscany.
“It was great. I got to go home a lot, but now we have two little girls getting ready to start school, and we wanted them to be raised around their cousins, grandparents, and family,” Ciabattini says. “We moved here in December and started looking for a place, because we knew that’s what we wanted to do.”
The couple chose the location where Le Petite Bistro was for many years and spent weeks transforming the décor to give the restaurant a brighter, more open ambience. Ciabattini used a warm red and soft yellow palette to give the restaurant a more Tuscan feel. He also modeled the menu after an authentic Tuscan café, with fresh seafood and pasta dishes.
“It a little bit of a mixture, with more Tuscan and more contemporary,” says Ciabattini. “It is more simple and fresh than the traditional Italian dishes you would find at most restaurants.”
Café Toscana is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily except Sunday. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Café Toscana, 5007 Black Road (761-9522)

Downstairs from Cafe Toscana, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is set to open this week. Owner Marc Tate opened a Ben & Jerry’s in Germantown in July 2004, and he says it’s been a huge success, though he does plan to offer some new features at the new Memphis location.
“I want it to be not just an ice cream shop. I want it to be a dessert emporium,” Tate says. The location will offer low lighting and offerings beyond ice cream, such as cakes and Belgian waffles. In addition, Tate will open a patio with live music on the weekends.
A grand opening is slated for August 6th. “I’ve talked to a few of my neighbors, and we’d like to have a block party that weekend,” Tate says.
Ben & Jerry’s will be open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Ben & Jerry’s, 5007 Black Road ()

Also new to the neighborhood is Carraba’s Fine Italian Grill, which opened its first Memphis location June 27th at the entrance to Clark Tower. The restaurant, owned and operated by Outback Steakhouse International, features an exhibition-style kitchen, where guests can watch the chefs in action. In addition to Italian specialties, the menu features wood-grilled meat and fish. Kids can shape and mold fresh pizza dough while waiting for dinner. A second location is slated to open in Collierville in the fall.
Carraba’s is open at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. throughout the week and stays open until 11:30 on Friday and Saturday.
Carraba’s Fine Italian Grill, 5110 Poplar Ave. (685-9900)

“Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective,” now at the Brooks Museum through August 28th, highlights the Vicksburg-born designer’s work from the 1980s. Kelly worked in Paris and was one of the first African-American designers to enjoy success in the competitive world of fashion.
To pay tribute to Kelly and celebrate Bastille Day, chef Penny McCraw of the museum’s Brushmark restaurant, will present a menu of French fare July 12th through July 16th. McCraw will prepare lobster bisque, crêpe de jour, and mesclun salad with duck confit and wild mushrooms, just to name a few items.
Kelly is also the inspiration for the Brooks’ Avante Garde Party, being held Saturday, July 16th. “You do have to be a museum member to attend,” says Diane Jalfon, public-relations manager of the Brooks. “But many people purchase a membership just for this event,” she says. The theme this year is “Material World: Couture and Casino Party.” The evening will include dancing, casino games by Harrah’s Entertainment, a fashion show from stores in Laurelwood Shopping Center, and, of course, plenty of food.
“We will have an upscale buffet with some French influences, but with it being summertime, we’ll have some fresh, crisp flavors,” says McCraw. “Outside I’m going to have an interactive station where I’ll be doing flaming bananas Foster.”
The Brushmark is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are recommended.
For more information about museum membership, contact Effie Phillips at 544-6230.
The Brushmark, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, in Overton Park (544-6225)





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