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Maple Street Café: Mix It Up 

The lunch crowd at Maple Street Café can order from a menu featuring various Mediterranean and Italian dishes, or try something new from a list of daily specials. It's swimsuit season, and that means more and more people will be looking for ways to trim their waistline. Not all diets are considered healthy, but the Mediterranean diet " lots of vegetables, grains, fish, nuts and olive oil, with its heart-healthy fats " has been shown to improve health and increase longevity.

That's good news for Maple Street Café (7623 Maple St., 314-9003). The restaurant, which opened in 1996, dishes up Mediterranean cuisine. However, owner Jameel Qutob, says it is not the 'straight-up, typical" Mediterranean food you might find at other restaurants around the city. He says people who work at Maple Street Cafe don't think of it as strictly Mediterranean, because there is also an Italian side to the menu.

'[It's] like a combination really," Qutob says. 'That's what makes us different. We offer different styles."

The Italian influence can be seen in menu items such as seafood pasta, which Qutob considers to be one of Maple Street Café's specialties. It does not skimp on the variety of seafood: mussels, shrimp, clams and scallops are combined with a tomato sauce and served over linguine pasta. Another of Qutob's favorites offers a different take on the seafood-and-noodles standard.

'We also have fried soft-shell crab over linguine pasta tossed in a crawfish cream sauce," he says.

Qutob, who moved to New Orleans from Jordan, says that the restaurant has had loyal customers from the beginning, but more and more diners are becoming regulars every day. A dish that many customers love is the veal shank osso buco served with pasta and vegetables, he says.

The owner and sometimes-cook gives some credit for the restaurant's success to local publications. In addition to being written about in Gambit Weekly, Qutob says Maple Street Café has been praised by other local newspapers, helping propel it from the small restaurant it started out as to a thriving business with with a loyal following.

Maple Street Café is open for lunch and dinner every day.

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