My Big Fat Greek closes; Pelio opening delayed
Southern Arizona's lone remaining My Big Fat Greek Restaurant on East Broadway closed two weeks ago, ending a nearly six-year run in the region.
Restaurateur Ryan Field had several Tucson-area locations, including an outpost in Sierra Vista and another at the Foothills Mall. Both those restaurants have become The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen, a new concept from Phoenix restaurateur Aaron May. Field and May, a celebrated chef, are business partners in May's Scottsdale-based restaurant development company Lettuce Turnip Beets. The company has 13 restaurants throughout Arizona and in Colorado, including May's Counter Chicken & Waffles at 2945 E. Speedway near North Country Club Road.
May has said he hopes to open his popular breakfast diner Over Easy in Tucson.
Meanwhile the Greek restaurant Pelio Grill Greek Cuisine & Catering - formerly The Fat Greek - at 994 E. University Blvd., won't reopen until late summer.
Owner George Markou said he hopes to begin work soon on gutting the interior. He needs to replace the walls, flooring, electrical and plumbing after an upstairs pipe burst and flooded the restaurant last July.
Markou said he hopes to be open by late July or early August, in time for the start of classes at the University of Arizona.
Flying V Tequila dinner features Pura Vida
Loews Ventana Canyon's Flying V Bar & Grill continues its tequila dinner series tonight, this time featuring Pura Vida Tequila.
Pura Vida tequila master Carlos Ruiz will be on hand to see how Flying V Chef Josh Willett employs the tequila in a menu of regional Mexican specialities.
The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and the cost is $65. For reservations and details, call 299-2020.
Tucson on radar of Calif. sandwich chain
If Tony Gioia has his way, Tucson will eventually be home to at least five and possibly seven Togo's sandwich shops in the next few years.
He hopes to have the first open by the middle of next year, he said, as the California chain makes a major push into Arizona. By the time the dust settles, Gioia said the company will have 25 new restaurants throughout the state, including in Flagstaff and Tucson. Togo's already has one store up and running in the Phoenix area, and another is set to open soon.
"We are excited about entering Arizona," said Gioia, the former Baskin-Robbins president and Southwest Supermarkets CEO who once lived in the Phoenix area and still has a home there. "I love Arizona. It's a great business climate and a great place to do business."
Togo's, which has been around mostly in California since it was started in 1971, is known for its big meaty sandwiches, with breads made in-house and meats sliced on premises, said Gioia. Prices range from $5.75 to $6.50 for six-inch sandwiches to $6.50 to $7.50 for nine-inch subs.
"That's what Togo's is all about since it was founded 41-plus years ago. Our sandwiches are piled with meat. We don't skimp on anything," said Gioia, who bought the company with partners in 2007.
For information about Togo's franchising, visit www.togos.com
Chicken fried steak for a good cause
The McCulloch-Wagner American Legion Post 109 is dishing up chicken-fried steak dinners Friday night to raise money for veterans.
Patients from the Tucson VA medical center will be special guests. The cost is $9, which includes dinner, dessert and a beverage.
Dinner will be served from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the post, 15921 S. Houghton Road. Details: 762-5652.
Breakfast celebrates Norway's independence
We have the Fourth of July and Norway has Syttende Mai - May 17th - the national holiday celebrating Norway's independence.
The holiday is quintessentially Norwegian, but with the U.S.'s large Norwegian population, you can find Syttende Mai celebrations across America.
In Tucson, the Norwegian community will celebrate the holiday a day late, on Saturday, with a breakfast at Dove of Peace Lutheran Church, 665 W. Roller Coaster Road. It starts at 7:30 a.m. and will include folk dancing with the Leikarring Dancers, a discussion on the holiday and a Parade of Flags. The cost is $8 for adults, kids 12 and under free, and reservations are required by calling 887-1114.
Syttende Mai celebrates the May 17, 1814, signing of Norway's Constitution.
Cupcake shop closes; market still thriving
Four years ago, Tucsonans couldn't seem to get enough cupcakes; three shops opened within weeks of one another in November 2009, while more waited in the wings.
A couple of those shops have faded away including one of the first bakers, Red Velvet Cupcakery, which lasted two years and had two Tucson locations before pulling up stakes in late 2011. Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe in the Foothills Mall closed in April after more than two years in business.
But the cupcake still enjoys popularity, says Shanali Davila, baker/owner of downtown's gourmet vegan cupcakery Cup Quequitos, tucked into Cafe Poca Cosa on East Pennington Street.
"It does very well," Davila said last week.
"I think everyone still loves cupcakes," added Jennifer Roth, who owns the Tucson outpost of Scottsdale-based CupCakes. "It's portion control; everyone's watching their weight. If you buy a cake, you will eat the whole thing. With a cupcake, you eat one and you're done."
Roth opened CupCakes at 4811 E. Grant Road within weeks of Red Velvet opening in late 2009, then closed the business last summer when she gave birth to her third child. Roth reopened the store last October and said business has been good.
"Last week, we had so many (orders) for dozens of minis that we had to put a stop on it," she said, anticipating business will slow down a bit over the summer.
"I'm hoping to stay steady, but you never know," she said. "It's hard in this town for small businesses. Everyone just sort of skips town (in summertime). It's kind of a ghost town."
Coming soon/Now Open
• Romina and Giancarlo Stefanutto are bringing their native Tuscan-style Italian cooking to their new home of Tucson. The couple, who moved here from Florence, Italy, a year ago, hope to open their upscale Italian restaurant La Mia Toscana on the northwest side in mid-June. The restaurant will take up 3,210 square feet of space at 7332 N. Oracle Road, at North Ina Road, that once housed Saigon Vietnamese restaurant.
Giancarlo Stefanutto, who ran a pair of Italian restaurants in Germany before he immigrated here, said the restaurant will feature homemade pastas and classic Tuscan-style dishes. Prices will run $25 to $30 for entrees, he said.
• Northern Arizona's popular Plaza Bonita Family Mexican Restaurant has spun off a sister restaurant in Tucson. The 10-year-old family-owned chain opened Rancho Rustico at 8270 S. Houghton Road in Rita Ranch in early March and is opening a second location this summer. That one is set to open in late July at 9165 E. Tanque Verde Road, which used to house Pizza Hut before that restaurant moved down the road.
Plaza Bonita started in Flagstaff 10 years ago and quickly expanded to include locations in Sedona, Cottonwood, Prescott and the Phoenix area, said Jose Luis Arceo, who manages the Tucson restaurant.
When the family first started, they called their restaurant Casa Bonita, but changed it when they discovered another chain of Mexican restaurants by that name.
Arceo said they decided to rename the Tucson ventures to avoid any possible name conflicts.
The restaurant is open 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Cathalena E. Burch