Grotto Wine Bar isn't the only new neighbor at Shaker Square. In early January, Darna Fine Moroccan Cuisine (13114 Shaker Sq., 216.862.2910) opened in the spot long occupied by Luchita's. The restaurant is owned and operated by Said Ouaddaadaa, the man behind both Bodega (1854 Coventry Rd., 216.932.3060) and Uptowne Grille (11312 Euclid Ave., 216.229.9711). While Bodega features small plates from all around the Mediterranean, Darna focuses almost exclusively on authentic Moroccan cuisine. That means diners can look forward to elaborate couscous platters, with versions featuring lamb, chicken or strictly vegetables. Tagines - lush, slow-cooked stews containing meat and vegetables - are served in their namesake earthenware vessels. Other entrées include Fez-style stuffed quail with golden raisins, Berbere stew with prawns, scallops, mussels and Merguez sausage, and chicken with preserved lemons. Entrées, mostly in the $16-20 range, are large and designed for sharing. An appetizing listing of small plates includes mussels roasted with fennel and saffron, grilled fresh sardines and flaky Moroccan "cigars." The cheerful restaurant is decorated in warm, rich reds and oranges, and a lounge area contains low seating, an American substitute for the customary floor seating. "The restaurant is beautiful," says Ouaddaadaa. "You'll think you landed in Marrakesh when you come inside."
With The Estate on Coffee Creek (1591 Rte. 45, Austinburg, 440.275.5022, coffeecreekestate.com) scheduled for its grand opening this spring, Nick Kustala has plenty to keep him busy. Still, he found the time to squeeze in the opening of another restaurant. "This was totally unexpected," he explains. "The owner of a turn-key restaurant suffered a heart attack and could no longer run it, so I took it over." Located at the Ashtabula Harbor, Giovanna's (1033 Bridge St., 440.964.6964) resurrects the casual Italian trattoria-style concept he ran on Clifton Blvd. The restaurant, named after Kustala's wife, is in a 200-year-old building that most recently housed the Bridge Street Bistro.
Well, it's officially official: Lockkeepers (8001 Rockside Rd., 216.524.9404, lockkeepers.com) has made the transition from Dante to operation by original owners Frank and Malisse Sinito. The new Italian-cuisine menu features house-made pastas, steaks and seafood, including some classics from the old Lockkeepers Inn days. The entire menu is available for viewing on the restaurant's website.