Three Granville-area residents hope their passion for good food and good atmosphere will bring people into the new Brick Oven and Down Under lounge on Church Street in Newark.

Three Granville-area residents hope their passion for good food and good atmosphere will bring people into the new Brick Oven and Down Under lounge on Church Street in Newark.

"We're crazy enough to open a restaurant in this economic climate," said Gerald Martin, one of the building owners.

Martin's wife, Kristine Bokariza-Martin, has another reason though, explaining that after retiring from Victoria's Secret, food has become her new passion.

"I've fallen in love with this business," she said.

Bokariza-Martin, one of the business partners, said she wants to share her passion for food and wine with their customers.

Sharing is part of the new restaurant's setting, with flames blazing from inside the 6-foot brick oven -- hence that part of the restaurant's name.

"It's just a real focal point, I guess," Martin said. "It cooks fast and even."

People will get to try appetizers, pizzas, some entrees and steaks cooked in the oven, which, Martin said, no one else in town is doing.

"It's the same thing that the California Pizza Kitchen and Cos use," he said.

The restaurant held a soft opening Feb. 25. Posted hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.

Martin, his wife and business partner Brian Newkirk purchased the building at 1225 W. Church St. more than a year ago. The building once housed a Chinese restaurant and a bar, known as the Down Under lounge. The lounge closed on New Year's Eve of 1996 and hasn't been open since then, Martin said.

The three worked to renovate the space, doing much of the interior renovation themselves, Martin said.

The restaurant portion has been changed, with the room opened up to include the oven and an open kitchen off a small bar area.

As for the Down Under, Martin said, they kept the name because it's something people remember. Visitors might be surprised to find the same red chairs, red vinyl strip along the bar and black leather booths in tact, he said.

A few things have been removed -- carpet and spindles between booths -- but the general feel has not changed.

Martin said he added a big-screen television and aims to purchase a piano for a dark corner. Other than that, the bar still is retro.

The Down Under lounge will be open at 4 p.m. daily, with food available from the Brick Oven Wednesday to Sunday.

The Martins already are partners in three restaurants in Granville: Brew's Caf, Nona and the Granville Inn.

Bokariza-Martin said their customers in Granville said there was an opportunity to do something else, so they are trying this place in Newark. She said the Brick Oven falls somewhere in between Brew's' laid-back style and large beer selection and Nona's fine dining and classic wine selection.

"All of our restaurants feel really good," Bokariza-Martin said, adding that it's just as nice to walk into Brew's and have a beer and a burger as it is to walk into Nona and have a glass of wine and dinner.

"We're excited about it (the Brick Oven)," she said.

Cheri Hottinger, president of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, thinks the location is a benefit.

"I think it's in a great area," she said.

Hottinger said it's important for consumers to have a choice, and "it adds to the area's quality of life."

She said that area has expanded with its proximity to the Ohio State University Newark/Central Ohio Technical College campus, and adding a new place provides another opportunity to keep dollars spent locally.