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Jill Torrance

Dante's Fire marries cocktails, cuisine

Jon Tuck likes to think of his initial restaurant journey as the marriage of cocktails and cuisine.

Both sides will get equal attention at Dante's Fire Cocktails & Cuisine, 2526 E. Grant Road, in the space that housed Rio Cafe until it closed in January.

Tuck and his chef partner have put the bar in the dining room, breaking down the barriers of bar and restaurant.

"We are bringing the food- and beverage-making experience all together and involving the guest in the entire process," explained Tuck, a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry.

Dante's Fire will specialize in craft cocktails driven by fresh ingredients from juices to simple syrups infused with lemon and lime juice instead of pre-made mixes. Speciality drinks include a cucumber martini with cucumber foam and a jalapeno margarita with jalapeno-infused tequila. Cocktail prices range from $5.50 to $9. (There's also a category on the menu called "Fraud" that features non-alcoholic versions of cocktails including the "Nojito" take off of the mojito.)

Tuck describes the food menu as classically inspired American continental - beef carpaccio is among the offerings - served as fine-food versions of tapas. Prices run $7 to $14 and the idea is to essentially make a meal of appetizer-sized plates that skip the starches.

Tuck said he plans to open Monday.

Food and fundraisers; Eating for good causes

Several Tucson restaurants are hosting fundraising events this week.

• Pastiche Modern Eatery, 3025 N. Campbell Ave., is launching its Art of Wine event, which will feature an afternoon of fine wine and food. It's from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $35 in advance at the restaurant or $40 at the door ($20.60 is tax deductible). Proceeds benefit VSA Arizona's ARTeducation program.

• Sky Bar is hosting "Birds, Blues and Bellydance" on Saturday evening to raise money for the self-supported Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. All of the proceeds from the $7 donation at the door goes to the rehab.

Sky Bar and its sister restaurant Brooklyn Pizza Company also will kick in 15 percent of sales during the event, from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Sky Bar, 536 N. Fourth Ave.

Live music includes performances by The Railbirdz and Ensemble Al-Salam, and belly dancing by Troupe HipNautic and Brandye Asya. Details: 622-4300.

Tucson joins worldwide annual Vegan Bake Sale

Lovin' Spoonfuls Vegetarian Restaurant is baking to benefit pooches, kitties and other critters on Saturday.

The vegetarian restaurant is participating in the worldwide Vegan Bake Sale sponsored by the Healthy You Network to raise money for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, 1200 N. Campbell Ave., you can buy fresh-baked cookies, brownies, bars, cakes, pies, cupcakes and muffins.

The Vegan Bake Sale started in 2009 to raise money for charitable causes around the country. In its first four years, participating groups reported raising nearly $200,000 for a variety of causes.

Details: 275-7999 or

Lovin' Spoonfuls is located at 2990 N. Campbell Ave.

Regional winemakers celebrate craft, vines

Seventeen Arizona wineries will celebrate their artistry and new releases at the Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival this weekend.

Kief-Joshua Vineyards at 370 Elgin Road in Elgin will host the event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The festival includes new wine releases, live music by Jeordi and a chili cook off Saturday.

Admission is $16 and includes wine tastings. Food also will be available at an additional cost. Details: 1-520-455-5582.

Healthy Eating and living Asian Style

The Tucson Chinese Cultural Center is hosting "Eating & Living Asian Style" in honor of World Tai Chi and National Asian Heritage Month.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, cooks from Harvest Moon Restaurant and Lotus Garden will conduct cooking demonstrations to showcase healthy Asian eating.

University of Arizona College of Pharmacy will provide onsite health screenings and instructors will perform various styles of tai chi.

The event will be held at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road. Admission is free but it's $8 for lunch. Details:

After 28 years, OV Spot calling it quits

Nearly 30 years of pizza making will come to an end next weekend.

La Madrina Pizza and Pasta has made savory pies, pastas and sandwiches at its modest storefront shop on the southeast corner of North Oracle and West Magee roads in Oro Valley for 28 years.

Brandon O'Leary, who has owned the restaurant for nine years, said he can no longer afford to keep the doors open. He said the restaurant, which has four full-time employees, has been "operating in the red for the last 10 months." He blamed a shrinking customer pool, increased competition and higher operating expenses, including recent jumps in the minimum wage.

La Madrina opened in 1985. La Madrina retains a loyal neighborhood following, he said.

"We've had families that have been in there for 28 years and telling them that we have to close is pretty heartbreaking. It's a punch to the stomach," said O'Leary, 33.

La Madrina will be open at least through April 28; O'Leary said he will open after that if there is food left. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Smashburger working on 2nd Tucson location

Tucson will get its second Smashburger restaurant late this summer

The restaurant, franchised by the Denver, Colo.-based chain, will open in late July in a former scrap-booking shop at 3837 E. Broadway, on the corner of Broadway and North Alvernon Way.

It is the second of at least four Smashburgers planned for Tucson, said Bob Lanska, general manager of the city's first Smashburger in Crossroads Festival.

Lanska said the local franchisee has identified a spot for the third restaurant and is scouting the southside and northwest side for possible locations for the fourth.

"If things go well, we'll think about opening a fifth," he added.

Smashburger opened at 4821 E. Grant Road in November.

Caribbean restaurant takes place of Mr. K's

A Caribbean restaurant has slipped into the storefront space that long housed Mr. K's BBQ on South Park Avenue.

Cassandra Singh opened Caribbean Steam at 1830 S. Park Ave. on April 1. This is her first restaurant venture.

Singh has no restaurant experience, although she owned and ran a grocery store in San Diego until the soured economy took its toll several years ago.

She moved to Tucson 2 1/2 years ago and decided she wanted to do something different.

"Cooking is something that I like to do as a hobby at home," she said.

Caribbean Steam - the name plays off Tucson's desert heat - has a menu that incudes several curries including curried goat; jerk chicken and the ocassional jerk pork; oxtails; fried chicken; steamed vegetables; rice and peas; and stewed chicken. Entrees are priced from $5 to $15.

Caribbean Steam is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Details: 373-5172.

Cathalena E. Burch