Action is heating up again in Ventura County's ever-popular game of culinary hide-and-seek.
Recently, Giovanni Tromba, who used to own Pastabilities restaurants in Camarillo and Westlake and who currently owns one in Ventura, turned up in Ojai with a new Pastabilities branch there.
That was just the beginning. More local restaurant folk are appearing in places you might not expect.
Rita Pisani, the chef-owner of Amelio's Italian restaurant in Ventura for seven years, is now in the kitchen at Filomena's Italian Pizza & Kitchen in Oxnard. Owner Filomena D'Amore said Pisani's influence is most noticeable in the restaurant's weekly specials.
"We're slowly starting some specials right now, like Mediterranean mussels over linguine sauteed in garlic and olive oil," D'Amore said, "and her Pizza Bianco, a white pizza with no sauce, with olive oil and different Italian herbs, fresh garlic and three cheeses."
Pisani, who closed Amelio's two months ago, has been busy learning the Filomena's menu as well as cooking up her own favorites since she joined the restaurant in late November.
"We will increase some of the food here, include things other than spaghetti and ravioli," Pisani said. "We will have some Italian dishes, seafood, specials with chicken breast we created ourselves. We will also try different soups and vegetables."
Regular Amelio's customers already have followed Pisani to Filomena's. "They know my food," she said. "I can cook for them the same as I did there."
D'Amore thinks they will be pleased.
"She will prepare whatever the customer wants when she's here," D'Amore said. "She can do it all."
Meanwhile, Gael Lecolley, whom many Ventura County diners knew as the executive chef at Ojai's Wheeler Hot Springs restaurant, has taken over the top cooking position at the Saticoy Country Club.
Lecolley has taken a few months to get a feel for the private club, he said, and is now beginning to incorporate his own background into the menu.
"Right now we are in the process of changing the lunch menu, probably within a week," Lecolley said. "It's going to be very, very French Provencal style with a little bit of Italian. I didn't change things the first day, because in a country club people are used to what they have."
Lecolley has been concentrating on parties and special events at the club.
Lecolley, who also has the Fantasia Catering business, is currently in the midst of a Twelve Days of Christmas special during which he prepares a special menu every other week. He has done French Christmas-, Dickens- and bouillabaisse-themed meals. They've kept him busy.
"Right now, it's so busy at the country club," he said, "that I haven't done any catering at all lately."
Imagine receiving a pound of peanuts from your best friend for Christmas, and another pound of peanuts from your aunt and then another from your brother.
What would you do? Well, first you'd ask yourself what kind of subtle signals you're putting out. Then you'd get to work on putting those peanuts to good use.
That's where the Peanut Advisory Board comes in. The Atlanta-based organization has published a free brochure of healthy recipes incorporating its favorite food.
There are recipes for pumpkin peanut bread, lentil rice pilaf, a nutty garbanzo spread, a Mediterranean chicken breast with peanut topping and other dishes. Send a business-size, self-addressed stamped envelope to the Peanut Advisory Board, P.O. Box PHM, 1950 N. Park Place, Suite 525, Atlanta, GA 30339.