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Gaspare's namesake returns

Gaspare Trani, a Seattle chef who co-owns Gaspare's Ristorante Italiano in Maple Leaf, will return to the restaurant's kitchen after an absence of more than five years.

Trani - who co-owns Gaspare's with his wife, Dianne - spent the past several years cooking at the couple's former Belltown restaurant, Il Gambero, while his wife managed Gaspare's. In July, the couple sold Il Gambero to the owners of Jai Thai, a Thai restaurant chain which also has branches in Fremont and Northgate.

"We wanted to simplify our life and spend more time together," said Dianne Trani. She added, "some of our downtown customers are coming to the North End now."

Camillo Danh, who had been running the kitchen at Gaspare's, will stay on. Dianne Trani said having two chefs will enable the restaurant to expand its hours to serve dinner seven nights a week. She also said customers can look forward to special dishes by Gaspare Trani on the menu from now on, including recipes from his native Ischia Island in the Sea of Naples. Gaspare's is located at 8051 Lake City Way NE.

La Tienda turns 40

La Tienda/Folk Art Gallery is celebrating 40 years in business with an all-day party at its original University District location at 4138 University Way NE on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The celebration will feature music, food, hourly drawings and store discounts. Inspired by the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, Leslie Grace opened La Tienda as a Mexican import shop in October of that year. Seven years later, the store doubled its size when it took over the adjoining space vacated by a Marine Corps recruiting center.

A 1972 trip to Africa by Grace resulted in La Tienda expanding its merchandise worldwide and adding Folk Art Gallery to its name.

In the mid-'70s, La Tienda responded to the American craft revival by adding locally made handcrafts and now carries work by over 200 craftspeople from around the country.

In 1995, Grace retired and sold the store to longtime employees Fred Hart and Monique Tran. Four years ago, La Tienda opened a second location in Ballard at 2050 NW Market Street.

Best Cellars event

On Saturday, Sept. 28 from 2-4 p.m., Best Cellars, a wine shop in the University Village shopping center, will host a free "Words in Wine" event.

The program will feature a tasting of Spanish wines, ethnic dishes prepared by local chefs and language lessons.

"Words in Wine" is a co-production of Berlitz International, a language education business, and Best Cellars. For details, call 527-5900.

Regata condos now open

Regata, a three-building condominium complex located at 1700 N. Northlake Way, celebrated its official opening in August.

The complex features 102 condominium residences, including studio lofts, live/work units, luxury roof garden penthouses and three retail spaces.

"We recognize the real charm of our city lies in its residential neighborhoods," said Ross Woods of Regata LLC, the company that developed the Regata complex. "With its location on the north shore of Lake Union, where the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods converge, we found the property irresistible."

Woods said the buildings his company designed for the site take advantage of several features, including the site's spectacular views of Lake Union, downtown Seattle, Eastlake and Queen Anne.

The complex also includes a community rooftop deck, which was built for all Regata residents to enjoy, and a garden courtyard complete with fountains and a waterfall at the Northlake entrance.

Regata's construction has included a $100,000 donation from its developers to aid the City's efforts to improve the nearby Burke-Gilman Trail, as well as to create the Wallingford Steps, a project that will convert a vacant, bramble-covered city right-of-way and street-end at the foot of Wallingford Avenue into a cascading park and stairway that connects the Wallingford neighborhood with the Burke-Gilman Trail and Gas Works Park.

"Regata and the Wallingford Steps are transforming this section of Wallingford into an inviting gateway to Gas Works Park," Ross said.

Regata's development team includes Regata LLC, project designer Driscoll Architects, landscape architect Thomas Rengstorf Associates, interior designer RCI Inc. and general contractor Titan Millennium LLC.

For more information about the project, call 545-1700.

Ave land owner gets grant

The University District Chamber of Commerce recently announced the first applicant to receive approval for the "Save the AVE Today" (STAT) Facade Improvement Matching Grant Program. Chris Longmire, property owner of 4337 and 4339 University Way NE, will be the first to take advantage of this program.

Teresa Lord Hugel, the chamber's executive director and chair of the design review committee, said the project was approved unanimously. "The committee was thrilled about the look of the improvements and very excited that someone is taking advantage of the program. It's good to see Mr. Longmire's commitment to the Ave."

The contractor for the project, Nicholson Builders, has plans that include replacing windows, repairing the stucco face and installing keystone moldings and quoins.

According to a press release issued by the chamber, Longmire inherited the property from his grandmother Minnie, who purchased the Dressler Building in 1955. She turned half of the retail space into the Govan Beauty Salon and rented out the other half. "It took every penny she had, and in the beginning she worried, but it thrived and she eventually bought the property next door.

"Minnie then turned the upstairs floor into a loft and lived there happily for many years."

Longmire recalls that his grandmother would shop at the local stores "and enjoyed the benefits of urban living. She was way ahead of her time. Plus, she could go to work without getting wet during our rainy season."

Mayor Greg Nickels was scheduled to attend an event in the University District on Sept. 19 to officially confirm the grant, according to the chamber. The event was to be held outside the property where Tokyo Garden Teriyaki and Beyond the Wall Posters & Frames are now located, at 4337 and 4339 University Way NE.

The Facade Improvement Program is funded by the Federal Community Development Block Grant funds through the City's Office of Economic Development in collaboration with and administered by the University District Chamber of Commerce.

The program is intended to increase positive investment in the buildings along University Way (also known as "The Ave"), upgrade the district's visual character and sense of quality, improve pedestrian conditions, and support local businesses and attract visitors to the University District.

The STAT committee, which initially reviews and approves the applications, is made up of local residents, business representatives, property owners and the chamber. Low-interest loans for the total project costs are available from Wells Fargo Bank and Community Capital Development.