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The Food Guy: New gelato, ice cream, sushi and more

Craving some food news? Here are six local scoops!

  • Following a soft opening that stayed somewhat under the radar for the past few months, Stella’s Italian Café is now going public with its opening on Hale Street downtown.

After seeing signs announcing the place at Friday night’s Live on the Levee concert, I raced down to check it out the next day.

Not a restaurant — and clearly still a work in progress with boxes, equipment and a mélange of miscellaneous “stuff” lying around — the café features a small counter offering more than half a dozen gelatos, along with shelves features dozens of flavored and diverse olive oils and vinegars available for purchase. Or tasting.

Sweet won out over savory that day, so I first tasted a sample of mint chocolate chip that I decided lacked the expected crisp mint punch it needed. While flavors like lemon pie, blood orange and hazelnut caught my eye, I eventually ordered scoops of pistachio (great toasted nut flavor) and sea salt-caramel (deliciously balanced) to enjoy on a walk about town.

That walk took me around the corner to Blossom Dairy on Quarrier Street, where I peeked in the windows to check the status of previous rumors that Stella’s planned to eventually expand into that space. While I can’t confirm that plan or a possible timeline for opening, there’s definitely been more movement inside.

A smattering of tables and chairs have been placed down the side opposite the food counter, lights have been strung across the ceiling and a whole bunch of silver serving vessels (perfect for pouring oils and vinegars, I might add) are peppered across the bar and along the windows up front.

Can’t wait to see how this mystery unfolds.

  • Should you find yourself with sweet tooth that needs attention while in Kanawha City, the Drug Emporium there is now serving up Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Right in the front of the store at the craft beer growler station, a freezer teases tubs of favorite flavors including Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Espresso Oreo and the like, which you can get in cups or cones — just like at the original location on Capitol Street and its summer pop-up at Capitol Market.

  • Also in Kanawha City, the new self-standing Starbucks down the street from CAMC Memorial Hospital is now open.

It’s so new it doesn’t even show up on Google yet, but the “Now Open” banner and steady stream of customers I saw there this weekend say otherwise.

The new location, at 3320 MacCorkle Ave. S.E. in Kanawha City, is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

  • The Panera Bread location at Southridge Centre is adding a drive-through lane and window, which will wind along the right side of the building.

I’m not sure why I never thought about this “need” before, but I was stoked to see the construction there a few days ago.

  • Also at Southridge (and surprising absolutely no one), the troubled Red Fire Asian Grill turned Osaka Japanese Steakhouse has once again closed and is about to turn into yet something else.

A sign on the door says a new restaurant called Robata Sushi & Hibachi will be coming soon. There’s no word on whether it’s the same owners or a new crew hoping to turn this location around, but a little research shows the concept sounds much the same.

The word robatayaki, usually shortened to robata, means “fireside cooking” in Japanese and refers to a barbecue-like method of cooking where foods are prepared over hot charcoal.

The previous restaurants here also offered tabletop grills to cook your own food, along with sushi bars and large hibachi flattops where cooks served up dinner and a show.

It would be nice to see something succeed here, so maybe the third Asian time is a charm?

  • And finally, it was also no surprise to hear news that Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits was shuttering all four of its West Virginia locations, including those in Southridge and Kanawha City.

I’m not sure why West Virginia didn’t support them — and I was actually a fan of the place — but their local restaurants were virtually empty every time I drove by one.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by e-mail at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy”.

Funerals for Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Beemon, Michael - 11 a.m., Snyder Cemetery, Churchville.

Cart, Edith Fay - 11 a.m., Beal Cemetery, Leatherwood.

Dent, Frances M. - 1 p.m., Allen Funeral Home Chapel, Hurricane.

Hagy, Alfred - 1 p.m., Simon - Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Rogers, Diana - 2 p.m., Dunbar Towers, Dunbar.

Winter, Janet - 6 p.m., Elizabeth Baptist Church, Bancroft.