The elements are slowly falling into place at D'Ici de La, the new international food boutique in Beachwood. Husband-and-wife team Bruce Sommers and Patricia Cornejo opened the doors to their handsome little shop in early May, about a week behind schedule, and they've been playing catch-up ever since. But now, with CIA-trained chef Jim Bartel in the kitchen, soups are finally bubbling, salads are being tossed, and Mediterranean-influenced entrées are coming out of the oven.
Sommers, who previously operated a chartered yacht in the West Indies and the south of France, among other locales, says the store's main focus is carryout. Still, for those who have time to tarry, the shop is a charmer, with stylish lighting, gleaming wooden floors, and aged brick. Andean flute recordings play in the background, and a handful of tiny bistro tables provide comfortable seating. Foods like sopa criolla (beef, beans, and veggie soup) are fresh and flavorful, and mugs of freshly roasted organic Bolivian coffee go down easy with delicate chocolate bars from Venezuelan manufacturer Chocolates el Rey. If you think you detect a South American accent in all this, it's intentional: Cornejo came to Cleveland from Argentina in 1992, and among the other gourmet goods that her shop features is a strong selection of Argentinean and Chilean wines.
D'Ici de La ("From here and from there") is open daily, at 2101 Richmond Road, in the lower level of La Place. Phone the shopkeepers at 216-763-3636, fax them at 216-763-3637, or visit the still-developing website at www.dicifoods.com.
Kitchen magician . . .
Your table is now waiting at Lakewood's El Tango Taqueria (14224 Madison Avenue, 216-226-9999). The eatery recently completed a modest but muy guapo remodeling that added a five-table dining area to the tiny, tasteful interior -- all the better for guests to sit and savor the kitchen's delicious Santa Fe and Latino-style cuisine. Since opening the taqueria a little more than a year ago, chef-owner Antonio Carafelli has developed a loyal following with his savory enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and tamale pies augmented with homemade salsas, robust sauces, and rich "Jamaican beans," seasoned with exotic spices. The Italian native, whose other pursuits include oil painting and guitar playing, says he's in this for the artistry. "It's not about making money," he insists. "What I do is create a little magic."