Italian cuisine, wines at the center of the festivities; hardware hangup holdup for Homer

Three days of Italian cuisine, culture, wine, as well as arts and crafts, demonstrations, a children’s zone and musical acts, are the focus of the third Arkansas Italian Food and Wine Festival, 4-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Penick Boys & Girls Club, 1201 Leisure Place, Little Rock. Local restaurants and vendors including Rock Brick Oven Pizza, Raduno brick oven and bar, some wine, graffiti, Boulevard bread, The Pops and Italian ice cream from Repicciprovide food.

Servers and bartenders jostle with trays full of glasses and bottles in the hope of winning the top prize of $1,000 cash in the Sunday afternoon server race. Friday noon is the deadline to register, as well as for the petanque (first prize of $2,000) and cooking in sauce (first prize of $500) contests, via There will also be a grape crushing contest. The presenting sponsor is Relyance Bank. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arkansas.

The festival also includes exclusive wine tastings, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, featuring more than 50 wines from Italian and Italian-American producers. Tickets, $35, include admission to the festival, which would otherwise cost $10 a day, $15 for a weekend pass, free for children 10 and under. A full schedule is available at

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Homer’s West co-owner David Connell says that while construction delays continue to be an issue, the construction, delivery and set-up of his kitchen equipment is the main reason for the delay in the opening of what will become Homer’s kitchen table. Connell et al. are moving from the Galleria Mall, 9700 N. Rodney Parham, Little Rock, to part of the defunct Franke’s Cafeteria in the Market Place Mall, 11121 N. Rodney Parham Road, and a very frustrated Connell continues to shift his opening goal – now, he says, maybe end of June or beginning of July. “It could be in August,” he adds.

An example: the parts for his cold room will not be available until at least June 1st. He has plumbers waiting to fabricate parts for the grease trap and he can’t get the metal parts he needs for the vent-to-hood. Meanwhile, “I have furniture under construction,” he adds.

He finally has a new sign rising this week. He hopes the construction schedule will allow him to move his existing kitchen equipment to the street by the end of May. At least, he says, staffing, which had caused at least one delay earlier in the process, is no longer an issue.

To recap: Homer’s takes over the part of the building at the end of a half-shopping center that faces Rodney Parham Road. (The part facing Market Street will be a fitness center, to be called Breakout Bar.) Working from a larger kitchen will allow for an “evolution” of the menu, while keeping the staples that make Homer’s Homer’s, and to add more homemade desserts and more elaborate pies and dinner specials. It will also have a take-out showcase. We expect Connell to retain the restaurant’s current phone number: (501) 224-6637. The website is; the facebook page is

Meanwhile, equipment and contractor issues are also causing delays in opening the second site of Three Fold Noodles & Dumpling Co.what the folks at Three Fold call “Three Fold West,” in the old panera bread space in Pleasant Ridge Mall, 11525 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. Three Fold manager Rebecca Yan said the target has now passed at some point in June. The original will remain operational at 611 Main Street in downtown Little Rock.

The storefront of 220 W. Sixth St. which houses Fat Jaws Soul Food and Southern Eats was alive late last week, with a “now open” banner and an open sign illuminated in the window; Monday morning the banner was gone and the “open” sign was dark, but the restaurant was due to reopen on Wednesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Eric E. Harrison)
We figured, based on the “now open” banner on a front awning and the “open” lighted sign in the window late last week, that Fat Jaws Soul Food and Southern Dishes had actually opened at 220 W. Sixth St., Little Rock, offering what chef-owner William Watkins described as “soul food for sophisticated palates.” A post on the Facebook page ( said it was open and serving as recently as Saturday, but by Monday morning the banner was gone, the sign was dark and the doors were locked. A new Facebook post on Tuesday morning says it was due to reopen on Wednesday, serving the following lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. “[A] the telephone line is installed [but] there are a few technical issues that we are working to resolve,” the post explains. A call to Watkins’ cell phone produced a message that the mailbox is full and not accepting messages. The storefront, you will recall, more recently housed an Ohia Poke outlet, following several restaurants and nightclubs, originally Lulav’s house (a version of the Lulav logo still sits on the east wall of the building; the Ohia Poke sign also still remains). Watkins, you may recall, says he catering in Dallas for 18 years; before that, he was a policeman. A Google search for the restaurant found one of the same name, now closed, in the Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill.

Mockingbird bar and tacos, 1220 Main St., Little Rock, which has not served lunch since the pandemic began, is reopening for lunch Tuesday through Saturday — extending its hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. at 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The kitchen closes one hour before the front door. (501) 313-5413.

One of our eagle-eyed correspondents reports that the Taco Bueno at 102 Savannah Drive, Maumelle, has closed. Originally, we are told, clients were told they were renovating; now, says our tipster, the panels have been removed from the building. A call to the listed phone number, (501) 851-4464, produces only a rapid busy signal, sometimes, but not always, an indication that it has been disconnected.

The state health department approved a permit, dated April 5, for a Hibachi grill at Bowman Pointe, an apartment development at 3321 S. Bowman Road, Little Rock. More recently, business journalist Noel Oman noticed a building permit application for work worth $200,000 for a “restaurant finish in an existing structure” in Building J. The resort’s website, “a whole new set of equipment as well as a restaurant, shops and offices”.

Central Arkansas McDonald’s restaurants – those in the 501 area code – mark 501 Day by offering crispy chicken sandwiches on Sundays, no purchase necessary. But only – note – through the McDonald’s app. (Fine print: “Not valid with any other offer, discount, coupon or meal combo or purchase of an Arch Card. Limit one offer per person, per visit. Taxes may apply.”)

You will remember that we announced a few weeks ago the opening of a whataburger in Magnolia, and an April Fool’s Day announcing fictional plans to open additional restaurants in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Jonesboro. This, however, is no joke: The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce announced on April 21 via its Facebook page ( that a Whataburger is indeed on the North West Avenue role in El Dorado. The publication includes a link to a recruitment site. No information, however, on a target opening date.

Drive-thru cafe franchise based in Omaha, Neb. scooter cafe extended a four-unit franchise deal that will bring locations to Conway, Benton and Bryant. The franchisees are Heather and Shawn LaMontia, originally from Omaha but with family in Arkansas and plan to move here in late May or early June, according to a press release. No word on a specific timeline or locations. Scooter’s, which serves craft espresso drinks, fruit smoothies, organic hot and iced teas and baked-from-scratch pastries, has four outlets in northern and northwest Arkansas — one in Harrison and Rogers and two in Bentonville.

MexicoChiquito, which bills itself as “Arkansas’ original Mexican restaurant and inventor of the cheese dip,” now sells its popular fruit punch in 16.9-ounce bottles from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, via the double drive-through windows of his restaurant at 11406 W. Markham St., Little Rock. “Our fruit punch is one of the signature items that has kept our loyal fans coming back since Mexico Chiquito was founded in 1935,” says Lisa Glidewell, one of five sisters carrying on the legacy of their father, Jerry Haynie. , who bought the restaurant in 1979, in a press release. “We are happy to now be able to offer it to people to take home and enjoy.” Unlike restaurant punch by the glass, which requires refrigeration, you don’t need to store the bottles in your refrigerator — they have a four-month shelf life. The cost for a four-pack is $8.99; for an eight-pack, $17.99.

And we reported last week on Rock Town Distillery’s five winners at San Francisco’s World Spirit contest March 30-April 1, but we missed another Arkansas medalist: Helena-West Helena’s Sweet Blend Vodka. Delta Dirt Distillery, which won a Double Gold award. The vodka is made, not from potatoes or grains, but from “sweet potatoes grown and distilled by Helena’s Williams family,” according to a distillery spokeswoman. (The distiller also produces a Tall Cotton Gin and a Delta Blues Bourbon.) See Sunday’s High Profile section for a profile of distillery owner Harvey Williams.

Has a restaurant opened or closed near you in the last week? Does your favorite restaurant have a new menu? Is there a new boss in charge? Write U.S. Send an email to: [email protected]

Shirley M. Pinder