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New Market Place Cafe brings urban eats to the edge of suburbia


Real Clarksville residents don't eat quiche.

At least not for a few more weeks.

That's when the new Market Place Cafe will begin tempting Mike Lando and his colleagues at Clarksville Exxon with an expanded menu, one that adds even more delicacies to their current offerings of pate sandwiches, warmed brie and baguettes, washed down with espresso (roasted on Monday).

Tricia Scarcia and Gerry Dzurek are catapulting Clarksville into the 21st century with their cappuccino and croissants, even if they are forced to use paper cups.

"We're known already because we're the only thing out there," Mr. Dzurek said this week while waiting for customers to brave icy roads for a Clarksville Club and some steaming Maryland crab soup.

And they came. Some, like employees of the Exxon station, came because they have tried everything on the menu at Pizza Hut and El Azteca Mexican restaurant and crave something new. Others, like Dolores Davis and Mikki Saar of Harper's Choice Village, because they want cappuccino and they want it as far from The Mall in Columbia as possible.

"There's not that many good delis [in Columbia], unless you go to the mall," said Ms. Saar, an artist who has done plenty of looking.

"Most of all, they're convenient and fast," Mr. Lando judged the new cafe decorated with fluted pilasters carved out of mahogany.

The service station staff has been known to go as far as Cooksville for a change in their lunch routine, so the addition of the cafe was a welcome one, Mr. Lando noted. He warned, however, "They're dead if they start messing up orders."

Although the cafe opened Dec. 18 in modest quarters, a refurbished Cape Cod house next to Kendall Hardware, its owners have big plans.

In three or four years, they hope to build a 6,000-square-foot building that will correct all of the cafe's current limitations in addition to making room for separate eateries.

Among other things, a new building would have a larger septic system, which would allow a high-pressure dishwasher. This would allow cappuccino to be served in something other than paper cups.

The two partners dreamed up the cafe when Ms. Scarcia, a Glenelg resident, decided to add food to her offerings in the Market Place Emporium, a shop she operated in Highland.

"We decided to go heavy on the gourmet foods and light on the gifts," she said.

The emporium closed last summer, but the cafe still offers some gifts, such as pottery and chalkware figurines. And if customers enjoy the prepared food, they can also take the raw materials home with them.

The $4.95 pate sandwich, with Bermuda onion, leaf lettuce and Dijon mustard, contains coarse country pate which the cafe will sell for $8.99 a pound.

When he's not serving customers at the cafe, Mr. Dzurek is busy running his architectural woodworking business, the Jessup-based Highland Millwork Co.

Mr. Dzurek's expertise went into the cafe's abundant mahogany fixtures and trim around the deli case.

And even before Columbia's final village, River Hill, brings its village shopping center and hundreds of homes across Route 108 from the cafe, the area was hungering for something new.

"Before Pizza Hut was here, and Pizza Oven before that, there was no place else . . . that you could sit down and get a good meal," said Mr. Dzurek, who lives in Clarksville.

Sue van der Valk, a Highland resident who stopped at the cafe yesterday, said she remembered motorists circling the Pizza Hut in anticipation of its opening more than a year ago.

Mrs. van der Valk said she believes the Market Place Cafe represents the next step in Clarksville's culinary evolution.

Ms. Scarcia and Mr. Dzurek, both 39 with three children in their respective homes, say they are hoping to attract west county's many families with a traditionally urban amenity a few minutes away.

"There's a lot of people around here with disposable income who have children, so to go to D.C., it's a pain," Mr. Dzurek said.

Despite the imminent development of River Hill, Ms. Scarcia said the expansion of Columbia was not a factor in the cafe's plans.

"We didn't say, we've got to do it, we've got to do it before the competition gets in. We really needed something else in the neighborhood," she said.

Even with the coming of suburbia to Clarksville, the little upscale deli seems out of place to some who drive up Route 108.

Mr. Dzurek said his attorney told him he noticed the cafe while attempting to find a short cut from his home in Potomac to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"He was wondering what a place like this was doing in the middle of nowhere. I told him it was my place."

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