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In the Meantime

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Interim opened this week in the space formerly occupied by Wally Joe restaurant. Interim's executive chef is Wally Joe protégé Jackson Kramer. On board with Kramer are: general manager David McWhorter, who until recently worked in a similar position at the Grove Grill; bar manager Chris Williams; sous chef Brian Ellis, who helped to get Boscos in Little Rock off the ground; and lead cook Duncan Aiken, who most recently worked for Stella and is in the process of opening his own restaurant downtown.

As to the future of a restaurant named Interim -- Fred Carl Jr., founder and CEO of Viking Range Corporation and former majority owner of Wally Joe restaurant, doesn't want to keep it a secret that the place is for sale. Carl would consider maintaining an ownership position with the right "operator" so long as he remains in the background, as is the case with the three restaurants he owns in Greenwood, Mississippi (Delta Fresh Market, Mockingbird Bakery, and Giardina's).

Interim aims for a slightly more casual dining atmosphere than Wally Joe, with a menu that appeals to a wider range of customers. Appetizers and salads range from $5 to $14 and include oysters on the half shell, macaroni-and-cheese casserole with country ham and herb and Parmesan crust, and a Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken or fried oysters. Entrées start at $15 and include grilled beef tenderloin with garlic mashed potatoes, broccolini, fried onions and red-wine sauce or blue-cheese butter; bow-tie pasta with sage pesto, roasted tomatoes, radicchio, and Fontina cheese; and sesame-crusted salmon with glazed baby carrots, taro root purée, and miso sauce.

Interim is open Monday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for dinner only.

Interim, 5040 Sanderlin (818-0821)

After much anticipation, Spindini, Judd Grisanti's new restaurant in the South Main Historic District, is opening soon.

The concept is "simple, elegant Italian," but in true Grisanti fashion, Spindini can't be summed up so easily. For one thing, Grisanti has rediscovered an ancient way of preparing his dishes (and one that fascinates so many males): cooking with fire. In this case, the fire is smoldering in a $30,000 custom-built, wood-burning oven that is the center of attention from every point in the restaurant -- aside from Grisanti, who'll be right there shoving food in and out of the oven using a multitude of pedals. Even the wood -- red oak and hickory -- is chopped on the premises by the chef himself.

Spindini seats 120, and the kitchen takes up approximately 500 of the 3,900-square-foot space. But just outside the back door is a walk-in cooler that could easily fit the family sedan. A private dining room for up to 20 people is in the back of the restaurant, with more space for special events in a building next door. There's a parking lot with 50 spaces on the north side of the building, and 100 feet of South Main frontage will be transformed into a patio in the early spring, and that might still not cover it all.

The restaurant's interior, revamped in a contemporary style by archimania, mixes shades of black and charcoal with copper and earth tones. Most seating is banquette-style with a few free-standing tables near the oven. The bar and the "chef's table" (the bar around the oven) offer seating, and flat-screen televisions will keep diners in the entrance lounge entertained.

The restaurant's atmosphere is laid-back, with a $5 martini bar, live music some nights, and early hours for dinner. Appetizers include: beef and tuna carpaccio; Miss Mary's salad; bacon-wrapped spiedini (skewered) shrimp; and Grisanti's oysters Rockefeller soup. Entrées include: trout stuffed with apple-wood smoked bacon, tarragon, and Yukon-gold potatoes; Tuscan beef steak; double-thick pork chops with herbed gnocchi, cremini mushrooms, and shallots; and a variety of pizza and pasta dishes, such as lobster ravioli, smoked chicken fettucini, and white pizza with potato cream and portabella mushrooms. Diners can also choose from original Grisanti family favorites, such as spaghetti with Grisanti Bolognese, ravioli Mezzo Mezzo, manicotti, and eggplant Rollatini.

Spindini is open daily from 4 p.m. for dinner only.

Spindini, 383 S. Main

siba@gmx.com

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