L'Ecole Culinaire in Germantown, the sister campus of the St. Louis institution, has just opened its on-campus restaurant, The Presentation Room. The set-up allows students to showcase their work from the 10-week program before moving on to their externships at local restaurants. A regional bistro-themed lunch menu consists of charcuterie with terrines, pâtés, pickles, sausages, sandwiches and paninis, and pasta dishes. The dinner menu is a little more upscale (no sandwiches) but still within the bistro mold.
A number of local chefs serve as adjunct instructors at L'Ecole Culinaire, including Ben Smith of Tsunami and Cullen Kent of Café Society, as well as full-time professors like Johnny Kirk (formerly of Stella), Rick Farmer (formerly of Jarrett's), and Jimmy Gentry (formerly of Erling Jensen).
With nine different classes and a full class schedule, L'Ecole Culinaire will open the Presentation Room for lunch and dinner only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Check the website for a schedule, menu, and information on reserving your spot.
L'Ecole Culinaire also will be hosting a dinner at Café Society on Sunday, May 23rd, with a five-course dinner, silent and live auctions, and a variety of dishes prepared by local chefs. All proceeds benefit scholarships for students to attend L'Ecole. For more information, visit the website.
L'Ecole Culinaire, 1245 N. Germantown Pkwy. (754-7115)
Casa Grill, formerly in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, has moved to a larger location on Poplar in East Memphis. Located near Clark Tower and Whole Foods, the new Casa Grill will be more accessible for Memphians living and working outside of Midtown and downtown. The move coincided with the end of the restaurant's lease at the Young Avenue location.
The new Casa menu includes many of the old Casa crowd-pleasers, including the falafel and hummus platter, baba ganoush with shrimp, and lamb shawarma. Casa owner Aimer Shtaya also has added a few new items, notably the rack of lamb and shish kabobs.
Of course, there has to be baklava and Turkish coffee, and Shtaya adds to that must-have list his "Best Tea in Memphis," made with ginger, honey, and sage and served hot or cold. There's also the olive oil, imported from Jerusalem, where Shtaya's father makes and bottles this cooking essential.
Casa Grill is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 3 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Casa Grill, 5030 Poplar, Suite 7, 725-8557, casagrillmemphis.com
A new pizza joint has opened downtown at the corner of Third and Peabody Place, next door to the Hampton Inn. Pizza Italia offers both New York- and Chicago-style pizza — an interesting on-the-fence approach to an age-old battle of pizza styles.
Otherwise, the menu is very basic. In a time when pizzas have become blank canvases for all kinds of experimentation, Pizza Italia sticks with pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, onion, and beef. They also serve calzones in a handmade crust.
There is no indoor seating — only a small set of tables and chairs on the sidewalk out front — but the easy-to-handle slices are perfect for a stroll to nearby Beale. One word to the wise: Call ahead for Chicago style, as it takes longer to prepare.
Pizza Italia is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and for late nights, it's open until 12:30 a.m. on Friday and 1 a.m. on Saturday. The restaurant delivers from 5 to 10 p.m.
Pizza Italia, 175 Peabody Place (527-0606)