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What's cooking/Capsule reviews, Dec. 14

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What's cooking

Sufficient Grounds Coffeehouse on Palm Street in Hillcrest has added a selection of coffees from the New Orleans roaster Orleans Coffee Exchange.
The small, family-owned micro-roasting company was founded in 1983 and, according to Sufficient Grounds’ new owner, Rebecca Esch, provides coffees to the majority of New Orleans’ coffee houses. The roaster supports environmentally sustainable coffee growing practices. The company is run by Bill Siemers, whose wife died of cancer nine days before Hurricane Katrina struck the Crescent City in late August 2005. Siemers, according to Esch, decided that rather than closing his company he would invest more in the business even though many of his New Orleans customers had lost theirs.
Esch, in a press release, said her hope was that by carrying the coffee it would “contribute in some small way to the rebuilding of New Orleans.”
Sufficient Grounds is also the exclusive local seller of Two Leaves and a Bud teas from Aspen, Colo. The coffee house is also offering custom-made gift baskets and specialty baking with 48-hour notice. Call 663-1636.

Pia’s, the Italian restaurant in Conway owned by Kate Saunders, has applied for a beer and wine permit and hopes to be serving wine in February, Saunders told us. The dining capsule that’s been running in this space said that Saunders had chef experience in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, but Saunders told us that actually she grew up in those cities and that her extensive experience has been in Arkansas.

Capsule reviews

LUCCHESI’S RAVIOLI AND PASTA COMPANY Not everyone seems to realize this is more than a to-go and catering operation. Lucchesi’s also has a nice, affordable lunch and dinner menu, and lunch particularly is a nice change of pace from the usual spots we frequent. Plates with half orders of lasagna (excellent, with nice seasoning) and spaghetti, or ravioli, and full servings of spaghetti carbonara were stick-to-your-ribs good on a brisk recent day. We enjoyed appetizers of fried ravioli with an addictive tomato and meat sauce, as well as cheesy garlic bread. For dessert, our sweet tooth was satiated by a cannoli, though it was served cold (we know that keeps the shells from going soggy) instead of room temperature. The pasta is made fresh in Memphis and shipped in weekly. The atmosphere is pleasant, the service is attentive, and the walls are covered with poster that scream “Italy.” We’ll be back. 5600 Kavanaugh. Beer and wine. CC $$ 660-4444 L Mon.-Fri., D Mon.-Sat.

THE OLIVE BRANCH Apparently not as well known as it deserves, the Olive Branch offers panini (Italian grilled sandwiches), four or five kinds of salad, soups, and desserts such as cheesecake and biscotti. But our favorite is the daily special, sometimes a pasta dish, sometimes risotto, sometimes a wonderfully hearty casserole of turkey, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, served with your choice of salad (fresh greens with vinaigrette dressing, in our case). Or maybe an empanada, a fluffy pastry filled with beef and potatoes or vegetables and cheese, served with a large cup of a great minestrone. The special is served from lunch until it runs out. The rest of the menu is available all day. They do catering, too. 400 President Clinton Ave. (River Market) 372-0020 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. $ CC No alcohol.

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