Paolo's offers new cannoli service

It sounds like something you'd encounter on a cruise ship, but Paolo Dalla Zorza of Paolo's Gelato says the idea for his new cannoli service came to him while traveling home from Italy.

Now at Paolo's, customers have their pick of cannoli shells, fillings and toppings, so they can construct a mini-shell stuffed with chocolate ricotta cream and dipped in candied fruit, or a chocolate-coated shell filled with ricotta and garnished with sprinkles. There are 72 possible combinations.

"My customers are so international and well-traveled, so they appreciate this kind of an idea," Zorza is quoted as saying in a release.

Paolo's is at 41 John St., downtown Charleston.

More small plates coming to Upper King

The first-time restaurateurs behind the project at the corner of Morris and King streets recently revealed the concept they've thus far been reluctant to discuss.

"What we're looking to do is take really great stuff and our chef's reputation and serve it in a small-plates atmosphere," Robert Young, a 32-year old former server (Charleston Grill, 39 Rue De Jean) said after receiving permission from his partner, Ben Russell-Schlesinger, to "let the cat out of the bag."

"It's shareable and social," Young continued, adding he anticipates customers hopping from the restaurant (the name is still a secret) to other restaurants on Upper King.

So will the restaurant-to-be-named-later function like Republic, which opened with a menu of high-aiming party snacks?

"No, we'll have a dining space," Russell-Schlesinger, 28, said.

Maybe the restaurant will have more in common with Indaco, another neighbor?

"No, we're not doing Italian," Young said.

Young and Russell-Schlesinger, who worked a few kitchen internships in his native San Francisco, have hired a chef, but the chef's name is a secret, too. They promise his food will be "approachable," and describe the cuisine as fitting in between The Ordinary and A.C.'s.

The building at 515 King St. has previously been a bank and, according to what Young and Russell-Schlesinger have heard, a wig shop. It hasn't been open to the public in decades.

"This is one heck of a historic renovation," said Young, who's looking forward to the view of the Ravenel Bridge from the King Street-side bay windows.

The restaurateurs declined to reveal the source of their funding, saying only that the money is coming from an LLC the pair registered in 2012.

Russell-Schlesinger comes from a wealthy San Francisco family with ties to Levi Strauss.

His parents' family-based charitable foundation has net assets of $14 million, according to its website.

Although there's no opening date yet set, Young and Russell-Schlesinger are confident the small-plates restaurant will be open by summertime.

Ristorante LIDI opens this week

Ristorante LIDI, a family-oriented Italian restaurant on Daniel Island, has scheduled its grand opening for Friday night.

The dinner menu runs long on Italian-American classics such as Caesar salad, grilled sausage, fried calamari, chicken parmesan, veal picatta, lasagna and linguine with clam sauce (LIDI stands for Little Italy, Daniel Island.) The standard menu is supplemented by a lengthy selection of salads, meat entrees and pastas plated family-style, including a $24 serving of cacao e pepe, which ardent fans of the dish might have trouble sharing.

Main dishes meant for a single eater are priced between $13 and $26.

"Our team seeks to incorporate the area's unique island lifestyle, ease of access, affordability and the top shelf service Daniel Islanders and Charlestonians expect," the restaurant's website announces.

Scott Sankar, who's spent nearly a decade with P.F. Chang's, is LIDI's general manager. Judging from his statement on the restaurant's website, he's accustomed to handling deal-seeking customers and their demands:

"Ristorante LIDI has a great concept and idea with a family affordable approach," he's quoted as saying. "With that approach comes a broad, diverse and particular market that can be tamed by providing (excellent) service."

A young daughter has helped endear LIDI's chef, Jason Colon, to a family-centric dining room offering more ambitious dishes than chicken fingers. Prior to taking the job at LIDI, the Le Cordon Bleu graduate helped open Italian-themed restaurants in Asia and worked as a sous chef for an Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant in Honolulu.

LIDI is at 901 Island Park Drive. To learn more, call 303-1113 or go to ristorantelidi.com.

Crave takes over from Rosebank cafe venue

Four months after reopening its location damaged by an electrical fire, Crave International Foods and Catering is on the cusp of opening a second Johns Island restaurant.

"We're hoping to do it by May," owner Michael Petrillo says, speaking from the former Rosebank Farms Cafe space he's planning to renovate.

Rosebank Farms Cafe closed earlier this month. Although owner Julie Limehouse didn't return messages, Sidi Limehouse speculated she was exhausted by more than two decades in the restaurant business.

"She was just tired," he says. "She just wanted to do something else. You know, restaurants are a tough business. Business has fallen off; there's a lot of competition here now."

The elder Limehouse called Crave "a good fit" for the venue overlooking Bohicket Creek.

Petrillo, who previously cooked in the Netherlands and Key West, three years ago opened Crave. Last July, a fire attributed to an outlet in a storage room near the kitchen caused extensive smoke and water damage. The restaurant reopened in December.

Catering, which constitutes a significant portion of Crave's business, will continue to be conducted out of the existing kitchen at 4430 Betsy Kerrison Parkway.

Wine Strolls return to Middleton Place

Middleton Place is again closing out the first half of its Wine Stroll season with a rum salute.

On June 25, the plantation will serve samples of light, dark and spiced rums, in addition to rum punches and Caribbean snacks. Middleton Place has not yet announced the price of the rum event - a press release warns it "may be individually priced" - but standard Wine Strolls through the gardens cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Middleton Place Plantation members receive a $5 discount.

The Wednesday night series begins March 12, and resumes Sept. 3 after its heat-related hiatus. For more information, call 556-6020 or go to middletonplace.org.

OpenTable challenger reaches Charleston

Diners interested in checking out the pair of new restaurants from Holy City Hospitality won't have any luck securing a reservation through OpenTable: Vincent Chicco's and Michael's on the Alley are among the first upscale restaurants on the peninsula to handle their table assignments exclusively through a Yelp subsidiary.

Yelp last summer announced the purchase of SeatMe, an iPad-based system launched in 2011. Unlike OpenTable, SeatMe charges a flat $99 monthly fee instead of $1-$2.50 per cover.

"OpenTable is very expensive, and there is a fee for each reservation made," explains assistant general manager Whitney Standish, who's an unqualified fan of the service. "SeatMe works just as well and is super easy to navigate."

While restaurateurs have long complained about OpenTable's pricing structure, it has successfully fended off challenges from competing sites such as RezMe, City Eats and EZTABLE. Its dominance is based largely on its reach: More than 30,000 restaurants are registered with the online reservation service, giving diners the widest range of options.

SeatMe, for example, doesn't allow users to search a city for available tables on a given evening or rack up rewards points to redeem at other restaurants.

Still, industry analysts last July predicted the sale could dent OpenTable's preeminence: OpenTable's stock price dipped seven percent after the sale was announced.

Although Holy City Hospitality hasn't yet extended SeatMe to 39 Rue de Jean, the company is clearly in the system's corner:

"It hasn't let us down, thus far," Standish says.

Bye, bye Bollywood

Sad news from Rivers Avenue: According to a tweet from @CharlestonFood, Bollywood Cafe has closed.

The Indian restaurant's website is out of service, and its voice mailbox is full, suggesting the "for lease" sign in the window does signal the end of the breakaway buffet.

Owners of Bombay Restaurant last summer opened Bollywood in a former Wendy's after a landlord dispute ended its tenure 400 feet up the street.

Another operating group took over the Bombay name and venue.

In my three-star review of the restaurant, I wrote, "Its kitchen is cooking with vigor and panache, and its staff is as sunny as the saffron curtains that lend an Indian touch to an otherwise generic-looking dining room . classic dishes are executed with resounding confidence, and servers aren't frazzled by the midday buffet crush."

Online reviewers generally shared my opinion.

On Yelp, where the restaurant racked up a solid four-star rating, diners called the food "magical" and "awesome."

"My wife and I have been here three times in the past month or so," a Yelper wrote in January. "At first, we just wanted to see what all the buzz was about. Now, we run the risk of becoming regulars."

Risk averted.