Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines dive as, among other things, "a disreputable entertainment establishment." The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, on the other hand, notes that the word, in its American sense of "a low resort for drinking" (a low resort? Is that like Death Valley Scotty's?) derives from the sense of the verb to dive , which means "to dart out of sight." To David (Cat) Cohen, founder of the Diver's Club of Los Angeles, though, a dive is a "great, cheap hole-in-the-wall eatery," an "obscure and often overlooked community cafe," and even a veritable "cultural treasure."

Cohen's group is on a bit of a crusade: He wants, he says, to help neighborhood restaurants survive, to give aid to places "that lack the money, time or skills to promote themselves." To this end, he offers his members a book of coupons good for 20% discounts at more than 20 "dive"-like establishments in the L.A. area (including Antojito's in El Monte, Habash Cafe in Hermosa Beach, Mary's Place in Silver Lake and Pieman's Soul Kitchen in Pacoima), a quarterly "dive gossip sheet" (including an "endangered dive list"), and discounts on the group's parties, publications and "diversphernalia."

For further information, contact the club at 6030 Wilshire Blvd. (penthouse), Los Angeles 90036, or call (213) 935-6194. ( Penthouse ? So much for darting out of sight.)

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR IRONY: Going through my files the other day, I came upon a column I wrote for another section of this paper Nov. 11, 1983. The subject was the smoking of cigars in restaurants and I reported at the time, in that context, that the Los Angeles City Council was considering an ordinance that would ban smoking (of any kind) in most public places--restaurants included. I also quoted an anonymous fellow cigar-lover (his identity escapes me now) who seemed relatively unconcerned about the possible L.A. ban. "That's just Los Angeles," he said at the time. "There are always plenty of restaurants in Beverly Hills."

NAMES IN THE NEWS: Tall-standing French restaurant legend Paul Bocuse has issued a cry for help: In a document also signed by 34 other top restaurateurs of the Lyon region (including his fellow three-starrers Alain Chapel and Pierre Troisgros), Bocuse complains that cars left in the parking lots of his and other pricey establishments are being routinely burglarized and even stolen. "Foreign tourists will avoid France even more if this keeps up," he adds. . . . Another noted (though certainly less celebrated and shorter French chef, Jacques Maniere, whose Au Pactole and Dodin-Bouffant were among the top Parisian restaurants of their respective eras, has signed on as culinary consultant to create special low-calorie menus for the Air France-owned Meridien hotel chain. Southern Californians may sample the results at the Bistrot Terrasse at the Meridien in Newport Beach. . . . And Bruno Vietina, one of the original proprietors of Il Giardino in Beverly Hills and subsequently involved as well with Pane Caldo and Madeo in West Hollywood, is now concerned exclusively with the last-named--where he is specializing in real Tuscan trattoria fare (and using his wood-burning ovens to great effect, for meats and fish as well as for pizza).

TABLE TALK: Le Picnic des Chefs, the annual picnic of the professional French chefs association is being held today at Harvard School in North Hollywood. The food is being prepared by some of the city's finest chefs, French wine will be poured, and two round-trip tickets to Paris will be raffled off. Tariff is $20 per person, children under 12 are free, and it begins at 11:30 a.m. The address is 3700 Coldwater Canyon . . . Sabroso in Venice offers a brief lesson in the basics of Mexican cooking (how to make tortillas by hand, how to handle peppers and cactus painlessly, etc.) followed by lunch Wednesday, and again on July 15 and Aug. 19, from noon to 2 p.m. Fee is $30 per person. . . . The Studio Grill in West Hollywood has added a take-out menu, featuring a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas and desserts. Free delivery is also available, with 24-hour notice and a $75 minimum. . . . Pocos in Canoga Park serves a complete $7.95 dinner nightly based on a whole Pacific snapper. . . . The Back Porch Restaurant in the Sheraton Grande Hotel, downtown, features a "Grande Catch" seafood buffet Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. . . . Wines from the Franciscan Vineyards and a six-course dinner will be the bill of fare Tuesday at Magdalena's in Bellflower. Tariff is $65 per person. . . . The Cooking Advancement, Research and Education Foundation, an arm of the International Assn. of Cooking Professionals, is now accepting applications for its 1988 Culinary Scholarship Program (through Dec. 15), "to further educate talented individuals in culinary institutions worldwide," and for research grants (through Oct. 15) for members of the food profession with original research projects, which "should interest the general public while being comprehensive enough for culinary businesses or institutions." Contact CAREF, 167 West 12th St., New York 10011 for information on the former, and Mead M. Brownell, 21 Sweetser Road, Cumberland Center, Me. 04021 for research grant applications.

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