The chef at the new Cafe Via restaurant in northeast Fresno calls his food "California-Italian eclectic."
The blend of Italian-style cooking with California-grown fruits and veggies is apparent on the menu of the restaurant, which opened this summer at 6640 N. Blackstone Ave., just south of Herndon Avenue. Chef Matt Babcock and his brother Leonard opened the restaurant in the former Venezia Ristorante.
"Eclectic means I can beg, borrow and steal from other cuisines and make my own menu," Matt Babcock says.
So while there's pizza, grilled polenta and linguine and clams on the menu, there's also sesame sautéed edamame. A popular steak salad features red bell peppers, kalamata olives, roasted red potatoes and bleu cheese crumbles.
There are vegetarian and vegan dishes, and Babcock uses local products where he can, such as the peaches in the peach semifreddo frozen dessert.
Most everything is made from scratch and in small batches prepared right before the dish is served, including the banana cream pie served in a tart shell.
"As you order it we cut the bananas ... and we do fresh whipped cream, not out of a can," he says.
And although you may not have met Babcock, chances are you've eaten his food. The Clovis native has worked at Max's Bistro, La Boulangerie and Grand Occasions catering, and was the executive chef at Fresno Pacific University.
Details: Facebook.com/Cafe ViaFresno or (559) 447-8706.
Fresno New China
The Fresno New China restaurant has taken over the former Luau Chinese restaurant at 1663 Fulton St. downtown.
Owners Jaime Guan and Yilin Hu have heard a steady chorus of "Oh my gosh," as customers walk through the door and see the majorly revamped interior of the building.
"The only thing not new is the building," Guan said.
The previous owner had blocked off the restaurant's bar and used it for storage. Guan and Hu cleared it out and made it part of the dining area.
The restaurant has a Chinese buffet -- $7.49 for lunch and $8.99 for dinner -- that includes American food such as pizza, Jello and french fries. Diners also can order off menus.
The couple have run the New China restaurant in Porterville for 17 years. They wanted to give the Fresno restaurant the same name, but it already was taken -- by the New China Cafe near Blackstone and Olive avenues -- so Guan threw "Fresno" in front of the New China name.
Details: (559) 237-4722.
Chill Yogurt opened last month at the northwest corner of Fowler and Herndon avenues in Clovis.
The idea for the business came from a failed hike up Half Dome after owner Mike DiFalco's knee gave out. He and a buddy were sitting partway up the giant rock when his friend said, "You know what we should do? We should open a yogurt shop."
After some research and some prayer, "next thing you know, we're standing in the middle of a yogurt shop."
Chill Yogurt has 12 flavors, including sorbet, and all the regular fruit and candy toppings.
What makes this place different?
About 10% of the profits are donated to charity. And three walls are painted with blackboard paint where customers can write and draw. They've filled the walls with doodles, signed their names and rival Giants and Dodgers fans have even left a few back-and-forth messages.
Details: (559) 940-2289 or Chill-yogurt.com.
The Meat Market
The Meat Market has returned to Chestnut and Clinton avenues. My colleague BoNhia Lee wrote about their return on the business page last week.
Many customers remember The Meat Market's location on that corner, but it later moved to Alluvial Avenue and opened another location in Clovis.
B & L Quality Meats leased the Chestnut and Clinton building from the market, and after it moved to Visalia, the owners of The Meat Market quietly reopened the place.
Freebirds World Burrito
The new Freebirds World Burrito restaurants are scheduled to open today.
The burrito joint with the wacky, hippie vibe takes over the former Qdoba Mexican Grill locations at Shaw and Marks avenues in Fresno and Herndon and Fowler in Clovis.
The first 25 guests in line will get free burritos for a year.