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Back in 1999, when Aimer Shtaya was preparing to open his restaurant on Echles Street near the University of Memphis (now the site of Azalea Grill), he chose a name, the Morocco Cafe. The name reflected the restaurant's Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine -- falafel, hummus, roasted meats -- plus, Morocco was that year's Memphis in May honored country. But just before he was scheduled to open, Shtaya saw the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic, Casablanca, and he changed his mind. Forget Morocco Cafe. His place would be called Casablanca. But it was too late. The restaurant's sign reading "Morocco Cafe" was being made, as were the menus and banners and everything else. So that was that.

But now that is this: Casablanca, Shtaya's new restaurant located at 2156 Young (725-8558) behind Dish at the Cooper-Young intersection. The menu's the same as it was at Morocco Cafe, but the decor more closely reflects the movie that inspired Shtaya. The colors are deeper, and there are stills from the film on the walls.

After the Morocco Cafe closed in 2003, Shtaya traveled and took care of some personal business. He became restless, however, and he missed his customers. He picked the Cooper-Young location because of the other restaurants in the area, such as Do, Dish, Blue Fish, etc., and because most of Morocco Cafe's customers came from Midtown.

Shtaya has put tremendous work into the restaurant. He had to build his own parking lot behind the building in order to get a business license. He also built the kitchen from scratch.

Casablanca is due to open sometime this week. The hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and until 10:30 p.m. on weekends.

Speaking of renovating, the folks with Dan McGuinness Pub are busily turning what used to be Patrick's (in the East Memphis shopping center on Spottswood off Perkins Extended) into an Irish-style pub. The goal is to be open before St. Patrick's Day.

Dan McGuinness is once again using Guinness' "Irish Pub Concept" to help them create a turn-of-the-century pub. Guinness developed the concept as a way to guide bar owners through the process of converting a bar into an Irish pub, from staffing and stock to decor.

This will be the third Dan McGuinness location. The original is in Peabody Place, and the second is in Nashville.

Remember the crepe craze? Remember the rounded pans and how carefully you had to manipulate the batter just so and then how the crepe tore anyway and you just got so frustrated that you sold your crepe pan at a yard sale, along with your macramé plant hanger?

This flashback comes courtesy of Le Creperie, located at 6641 Poplar, Suite 101 (752-4546). Le Creperie opened about three weeks ago and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Crepes include the "Peabody," filled with chicken, Swiss cheese, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and topped with Parmesan cheese, and the "Memphis Belle," filled with chicken and spinach in a béchamel sauce and topped with cheddar cheese. There are a number of filling options for the dessert crepes, including pineapple, strawberry, pear, and blueberry. The "Klondike" is an ice-cream bar wrapped in a crepe and topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. The most popular crepe so far is the "Bananas Foster," bananas in a rum sauce with vanilla custard.

Le Creperie is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Leadership Memphis is holding its annual auction and dinner. The dinner is being catered by Wendell Price of the World Beat Grill, and several food-related items are up for bid, including a wine-tasting for 24 and "Lunch with a Leader," a chance to break bread with community leaders such as Shelby County mayor A C Wharton and Germantown mayor Sharon Goldsworthy. Kelley Hurt will perform.

The event is being held at the Pink Palace Museum on Saturday, March 5th. Tickets are $50. For more information, call 278-0016.

On Thursday, March 3rd, at 7 p.m., Glass-House 383 will host an "Around the World Wine Tasting," with wines from such countries as Argentina and Chile paired with gourmet cheeses. The cost is $15 per person, and there will be reserved seating. To make a reservation, call 527-0055. GlassHouse 383 is located downtown at 383 S. Main. n

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