Inn Work Progress 

Lockkeeper's Inn breaks new ground.

Earthmovers were busily chewing up the landscape last week at the site of Thornburg Station, restaurateur and developer Frank Sinito's retail and office complex in Valley View. Among other things, the Western Reserve-style buildings planned for the area between Canal Road and the Cuyahoga River, just north of the national park, will include space for a new Lockkeeper's Inn, Sinito's fine-dining steakhouse now shoehorned into the nearby 170-year-old former Zimmerman's Tavern. The move will increase the restaurant's seating capacity from 84 to 174 in the main dining room and will add a 150-seat banquet space and a 20-seat private dining room inside a 5,500-bottle wine cellar. According to Robert Conforto, Thornburg Station's director of operations, the change of venue may also increase the restaurant's sales from a paltry $1.8 million to a rather dazzling $5.2 million. Executive Chef Pamela Waterman is expected to remain at the kitchen's helm after the move, continuing to create the classic American dishes for which the restaurant is known. As for the original vintage building, which began life on the other side of Canal Road, Conforto says it has been modified so many times over the years that its value as a historic structure is now negligible. Plans call for it to be demolished sometime after the new Lockkeeper's opens for business, which should happen this December.

New at Napa . . . The most recent toque to hang in the kitchen at Napa Valley Grille (26300 Cedar Road, inside Beachwood Place; 216-514-8686) fits on the head of Executive Chef Eric Williams. The Baldwin-Wallace grad and self-taught culinary artist comes to the restaurant by way of Johnny Mango and had previously worked with GM Susan Walters at KeKa, her now-defunct Ohio City restaurant. Williams, who is the third chef at Napa in the past year, has taken his turn at tinkering with the lunch and dinner menus, aiming for just the right balance of Californian, Mediterranean, and Cleveland tastes. New additions include Moroccan-style spiced shrimp as an appetizer and an opulent-sounding grilled veal T-bone entrée with creamy mascarpone polenta, wild mushroom and port sauce, and sage pesto.

Small bites . . . Bon Appetito (8535 Tanglewood Square, Bainbridge; 440-543-8383), Carmen and Luana Oppedisano's new Italian restaurant and bar, opened for dinner on December 28. Menu items include preparations like Walleye Genovese, Rib Steak Florentine, and Pork Chop à la Toscana, as well as salads, pizza, pasta, and "big plates" meant for sharing. Look for the restaurant to add lunch hours by the end of the month . . . Word has it that a Mexican restaurant will be moving into Uptown Solon Center, the Kruse Drive shopping plaza, sometime in February, taking over space previously occupied by the deservedly short-lived Corky's Ribs and BBQ . . . Another bargain-priced evening of cool jazz and hot food is coming up at Lure at Bratenahl Place on Wednesday, January 24, as part of the restaurant's "Music and All That Jazz" series. Guests can take in a $15 preshow buffet -- with roasted lamb osso bucco, Southern-fried chicken, cheese ravioli with sage-and-butter sauce, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, freshly baked rolls, and homemade apple or pumpkin pie, among other things -- and follow it up with a free performance by the Joe Hunter Quartet. The buffet runs from 5 to 8 p.m., and the quartet will play from 8 until 11. Make your reservations at 216-541-3900.


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