1911 Broadway. 327-8001
4:30-11 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
"Play it, Sam.” In the latest rendition of Nashville’s own Casablanca story, the role of Rick will be played by Susan Cone, the Cone Oil Company executive who recently purchased majority ownership in the restaurant formerly known as Trilogy, formerly known as Maude’s.
Opened in February 1998, Casablanca was owned by a partnership that included restaurateur Mario Ferrari, Valentino’s Ristorante co-owner Wally Kemp, chef Sylvain LeCoguic, and businessmen John Lee and Jimmy Webb. Casablanca’s debut was preceded not by one, but by two section-front business stories in The Tennessean; later, it received a glowing review from the paper’s restaurant critic, Thayer Wine. “It doesn’t take much of an imagination,” she wrote, “and probably not very many weeks, to see this place full of people meeting, talking, and eating, much as they would have in Rick’s American Cafe (sic).”
Unfortunately, Casablanca didn’t really capture the imaginations of area diners, and the restaurant never did achieve the acclaim and popularity enjoyed by Casablanca the movie. Themed after the 1942 film classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the idea for Casablanca was Ferrari’s. According to one of the Tennessean stories, the concept was an epiphanous moment for the owner of Mario’s, who after seeing the movie one night on his yacht, La Dolce Vita, is reported to have snapped his fingers and declared aloud, “That’s it!”
The theme was carried out in a Mediterranean menu and decor, which prominently featured a huge painting of Mario himself sitting with Humphrey Bogart in Rick’s Cafe Americain.
Cone took possession on Oct. 1 of this year, with Webb and Lee remaining as limited partners; by the new year, she plans to have an entirely new restaurant concept in place. Already gone is chef LeCoguic and the painting. Taking over the kitchen is Leslie Hurst, formerly of Morton’s. Hurst, who was working at Casablanca even before the change in ownership, has a revised menu out this week, and she and Cone are working on a bar and late-night menu. Among the entrees are a sweet potato-crusted halibut, steak au poivre, and herb-crusted rack of New Zealand baby lamb.
In January, the restaurant will close for a week for refitting and will then reopen with a new name, new decor, and a new menu. Though Cone is keeping her plans close to the vest, look for something along the lines of F. Scott’s and Sunset Grill. “Upscale dining at affordable prices,” is how she describes it. Before purchasing Casablanca, Cone went to her good friend, Sunset Grill owner Randy Rayburn, who offered this piece of advice: “Don’t do it!”
Cone, who says she has wanted to be in the restaurant business as long as she can remember, took the leap anyway and says she is spending 18 to 20 hours a day on the new venture. Here’s looking at you, kid.
On the rise
Bread & Company, the bakery with three locations in the Nashville area, is expanding again, in size and in scope. In August, the company assumed the lease on the Village Inn, the venerable Nashville bar and barbecue joint next door to the bakery’s Green Hills location on Hillsboro Road. And with new executive chef Richard Goldfelderpreviously of Noshvilleon board, the menu continues to grow.
The building expansion, coordinated by architect Manuel Zeitlin and Scene Three Construction, will double the size of the current store. The sandwich and coffee areas, as well as the restrooms, will be moved to create better flow. The deck on the back of the store will triple in size, and there will be significantly more seating inside. The new addition is expected to be completed by Nov. 15.
More display cases will also be added to contain the growing selection of take-out lunch items and dinner entrees. Currently, Bread & Company offers a variety of premade sandwiches and salads and a soup of the day; a sandwich and entree of the day are also available. In the display case on a recent weekday were a spinach, cheese, and tomato lasagna; spinach and potato gratin; walnut-crusted salmon with cucumber yogurt sauce; and Manhattan clam chowder. Prices are steep, but no more so than other upscale takeouts such as The Food Company, Clayton-Blackmon, and Bink’s.
Breakfast items, including frittatas, are already on the menu. Hours at the three storesGreen Hills, Belle Meade, and Maryland Farmsare 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (The Maryland Farms store closes at 3 p.m. on Saturday.) As of Oct. 10, the stores are no longer open on Sunday.
On the move
Martha Stamps, the popular chef and cookbook author, has left The Yellow Porch, the restaurant owned by Katie and Gep Nelson. The Nelsons also own Brentwood’s Wild Iris. While working for the Nelsons, Stamps (who formerly cooked at The Corner Market) redesigned the menu for Wild Iris and opened Yellow Porch.
Stamps, who just gave birth to her second child, says she and the Nelsons could not come to agreement on working hours that would accommodate the schedule of the mother of a newborn. Instead, she’s concentrating her professional efforts on her newly formed catering, consulting, and teaching business, “food for thought.” She notes that her cooking classes are popular among foodies looking for alternatives to run-of-the mill dinner parties. Rumors are rampant that she is also looking for space for a restaurant of her own. To contact Stamps, call 460-7632.
Jackson’s Coffee & Tea, the new cafe owned by Tom Sheffer that will occupy the Green Hills space formerly leased by Clayton-Blackmon, had its Oct. 6 opening date pushed back a week. Aficionados of green and black tea, chicory coffee, and Mad Platter soups, sandwiches, and dessertsall of which will be featured at Jackson’scame away empty-handed last week. Sheffer, who instead of brewing a pot of tea was overseeing counter placement, says the store will be open Oct. 13. Just to be sure, call first at 385-9968.