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NEXT L.A.: A look at issues, people and ideas helping to shape the emerging metropolis. : At Some Eateries, Child Care Comes With the Chow

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A nice dinner out with your 2-year-old? Even if you order alfredo sauce instead of marinara to tone down the stains, rushing through a gourmet meal while juggling a squirmy child kind of defeats the purpose of eating out.

But now a few forward-looking restaurants, recognizing that Los Angeles is in the midst of a baby boom of sorts, are serving up child care to keep the pests out of your pesto.

I Cugini Trattoria in Santa Monica offers free baby-sitting in a pillow-filled room during lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. First, the kitchen brings out the kids’ dishes to your table fast (and full-size--though the items are kid-priced, they’re full portions so you can take home leftovers).

After eating, the kids are off to do arts and crafts, listen to stories, or play with blocks under supervision. Meanwhile, you get to linger over your cappuccino.

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In Old Pasadena, the seafood restaurant Clearwater Cafe offers baby-sitting during Saturday lunch. All natural wood and subdued elegance, the place doesn’t look like a typical family restaurant, but some people come back often for the free service, says manager Linda Findley. As at I Cugini, no reservations are required.

DC3, at Santa Monica Airport, has the most elaborate kid cuisine program. While parents nibble wild mushroom ravioli or ahi carpaccio, baby-sitters take the kids to the adjacent Museum of Flying, where they can climb into airplanes and ride a flight simulator. The kids also get a free pasta dinner. Reservations are required for the Tuesday-through-Thursday program.

The restaurants get more than warm fuzzies by offering baby-sitting. The service draws in customers who otherwise might stay home rather than spring for baby-sitting on top of the cost of a meal.


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