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New Restaurant Offers Mediterranean Food

By Claire P. Prestel

For those looking for a little more adventure than burgers at Bartley's, a newly-opened Cambridge restaurant offers an alternative.

Earlier this month, 8 Holyoke, a new restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, opened at that address.

The Mediterranean style of 8 Holyoke fits a "hole" in the Harvard Square dining scene, said head chef Ana Sortun, who was named Boston Magazine's 1993 Best New Chef.

Sortun said the prices may be high for college students on a budget, but she expressed hope that undergraduates will try the new place.

The menu features dishes from the entire Mediterranean region, including Spain, North Africa and the south of France.

The largest part of the menu consists of Tapas, the Spanish word for small dishes. Tapas are hot or cold items which range in price form $2.50 to $5.50. They can be ordered as entrees or as appetizers before the main course.

The tapas include olives directly from a small grove in southern France and panisses, which are seasoned chick pea fries common in Spain.

Entrees are priced between $15 and $22 and include chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes. Sortun described Mediterranean cuisine as healthy "food of the sun" because it relies on natural flavor and is not masked by heavy sauces.

The restaurant is simply decorated in forest green, brown and cream. Store owners commissioned several artists to render their impressions of the number 8, and their prints and photographs decorate the walls.

The dark wood tables are fairly close together, and Sortun indicated that the atmosphere during dinner is social and busy. Sunday brunch, she added, is quieter.

Moncef Meddeb and Pierre Jospe who established Aigo Bistro in Concord, own the restaurant.

Meddeb, who was born in Tunisia and grew up in southern France, had a natural interest in Mediterranean cuisine, Sortun said.

The chef said that the cuisine will mesh nicely with Cambridge's mix of relatively new, ethnic restaurants.

Although Casablanca, another Mediterranean restaurant, is nearby, both Sortun and an official at Casablanca said each restaurant offers a distinct menu. Casablanca's business has not been impacted by the opening of 8 Holyoke, the official said.

8 Holyoke is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for dinner. Tapasare available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Brunch is served on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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