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Bambino's goes fast-casual downtown; Trapper's shows skin and swagger 

Side Dish

Bambino's moves, morphs

The phrase "evolve or die," as it applies to business strategy, comes to mind when looking at the bold move of closing 33-year-old Bambino's Italian Eatery and Sports Bar (2849 E. Platte Ave., bambinositalian.com) in order to usher in Bambino's Urban Pizzeria (36 E. Bijou St.).

The new eatery, opening imminently in the former In & Out Gyros spot, comes via Kevin and Suzette Megyeri, who a year and a half ago opened the Skirted Heifer just doors away. It's proved a wise model — so much so that the new pizza shop will offer a similar open-kitchen interior and reclaimed woods, to which a living herb wall will be added.

More importantly, the Megyeris will continue with the local-food approach, sourcing from area breweries, Arkansas Valley Organic Growers and Sangres Best, and making everything in-house. Suzette says she'll also go from buying $18 bags of pizza flour to $49 bags of Italian Antimo Caputo 00 flour to achieve "a more traditional Neapolitan pie."

Gone is the all-you-can-eat buffet and six-page menu in favor of a fast-casual two-page sheet, where 111/2-inch pies with unlimited toppings, run $8.50. There also are pastas and salads, plus vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free considerations, such as house-made vegan sausage.

"We've learned so much at the Skirted Heifer," Suzette says. "With no storage space, we have to make everything every day, and people respond to that ... this is a lot different than our mom-and-pop."

The Megyeris have also taken over the neighboring former mini-mart storefront, and there will showcase their dough- and fresh mozzarella-making processes for passersby.

More than a breastaurant

At the 5905 Corporate Drive property that recently flummoxed Zane's Steak House and New South Wales, Mark Herman has put $2.5 million and two years into a rebuild and expansion. His Trapper's Rendezvous (trappersbar.com) boasts two trout aquariums; 50 TVs; an attached, old-fashioned-style barbershop; a humidor and smoking patio; 300 dining seats; and taxidermy galore. It's also a breastaurant themed around the historic annual "rendezvous" gatherings of mountain men, Native Americans and others in the mid-1800s. The celebratory aspect comes through in an exclusive Alaskan Brewing Co. beer on tap, plus a free shot of Axe and the Oak for anyone sitting at the bar.

"Everyone on my management staff has been required to read history books pertaining to the rendezvous," says the former Sonic manager and franchisee. Regarding the seeming disconnect of scantily clad women, Herman says, "We're proud about what we're doing. It's fun and festive. We aren't trying to offend."

The fresh menu (only three items are frozen) ranges from wild game sausage, burgers, sandwiches and salads to trout and Southwestern pork plates.

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