Franks-and-Bell Express Heads for the Depot

Without a doubt, Michael Franks and Robert Bell are the restaurant kingpins of the South Bay. Their company already owns Chez Melange and Chez Allez in Redondo Beach, plus Fino and Misto in Torrance. Now they're at work on yet another place in Torrance, the Depot, scheduled to open in February.

The new restaurant will occupy the recently restored 1912-vintage Southern Pacific railway depot in downtown Torrance. "It looks exactly as it did when it was built," says Franks, "except that back then it was surrounded by fields." Now it will be the centerpiece for the Depot shopping complex. Franks describes the place as having "an almost Southwestern look outside, with high ceilings, brick walls, and lots of color inside." The food, which Franks says is "completely different from anything we've done so far," will be in the "modern grill style with an Asian eclectic feel to it." There will be an oyster bar and lots of fresh fish on the menu, entree prices will range from $7 to $14, and the chef will be Jim Barnett.

LOOK WHO'S COOKING: The last time we heard news of Vern and Charlene Rollins was in late 1987, when they were discovered behind the stoves at the Longfellow Cafe in Mt. Vernon, Wash. The couple--who ran the acclaimed restaurant New Boonville Hotel in Northern California's Anderson Valley--had disappeared suddenly in 1986, leaving behind a number of disgruntled employees and investors. Their friends and fans might be interested to learn that they are now established in Ashland, Ore., at the tiny but popular Sammy's New Age Cowboy Bistro.

SALT AND PEPPER: Tomorrow through Dec. 2, Tulipe in West Hollywood highlights the foods and wines of France's Lyonnaise region, in addition to serving its regular dishes. A five-course menu is offered at $40 for food only, $50 including three glasses of wine--and the Lyonnaise specialties are also available a la carte. . . . The former Central Park Cafe in Brentwood has been bought by the executive chef at the Los Angeles Hilton, Reto Ryffel, and become the Central Park West Wine Bar and Grill. L.I.F.E. (Love Is Feeding Everyone) takes over the restaurant Thursday for a benefit "Evening of the Senses," featuring items from the Central Park menu, a silent auction, an exhibition of art by Marquis de Jadraque and music by jazz vocalist Ruth Price. Tickets are $75. . . . And also on Thursday, in honor of Carol Fields' newly released "Celebrating Italy"--Campanile hosts a four-course dinner made from the festival recipes in Fields' book. Santa Lucia's Christmas goose and and Alba's herb-flavored custard, served during the Palio of Donkeys, are some of the offerings. The dinner is $48 per person.

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