Bistro Shuffle


Nora is gone. Gael is back.

It's not really that simple, when you trace the paths of Nora's Bistro in Ojai and chef Gael Lecolley, also of Ojai. But what it boils down to is that as of Monday, the 5-year-old establishment at Ojai Avenue and Montgomery Street will be known as Gael's Cafe Restaurant.


Because Lecolley, former chef at the restaurant at Wheeler Hot Springs and an on-again off-again consultant for Nora's, has purchased the restaurant and will be its primary chef.

Along with the new name and management, the cafe will have an additional 50-seat banquet facility on the upstairs mezzanine, another 50 or so extra seats for general dining and a full-scale bar.

"It's going to be very fun food, bistro food," said Lecolley, a former sous chef and since April executive chef at the Saddlepeak Lodge in Calabasas. "I'm still going to keep the pizza, but I'm going to get a better selection. I'll also have some very original, California-style pasta and a la carte entrees."

Lecolley's bouillabaisse, a repeat winner of the Santa Barbara Bouillabaisse Festival, will be a regular item on the menu, as will an osso buco and a variety of vegetarian dishes.

Despite the abundance of moderate to upscale restaurants in Ojai's relatively small downtown stretch, Lecolley has confidence in the prospects for his first self-owned restaurant.

"I've been known in Ojai for so long, a lot of people in Ojai trust my food already," he said. "I have had a lot of comments; people have been waiting for me to open."

Gael's cafe will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays and dinner from 5 to 11 nightly. The restaurant is at 423 E. Ojai Ave.


The following list is not intended to create a heavy cloud of eaters' remorse for people attending the Ventura County Greek Festival, Friday through Sunday at the Camarillo Airport.

Rather, it is simply trivia with which one can impress friends while pounding down the baklava and kourabiedes.

The pastry committee of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, the festival sponsor, used the following amounts of ingredients in the 25,000 dessert items prepared for this year's celebration:

Unsalted butter, 400 pounds; filo dough, 600 pounds; walnuts, 500 pounds; sugar, 500 pounds; eggs, 50 dozen; milk, 20 gallons; and flour, 250 pounds.

"Everything is uniform, everything is measured, everything is weighed," said Katherine Pappas, committee chairwoman. "It's very professional-looking, but it's homemade."

The festival will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2 general, free for children under 12. (805) 482-1273.


Speaking of Ventura County festival traditions, the 12th annual Ojai Wine Festival is set for June 14 at Lake Casitas.

Forty-one wineries are expected to provide samples. They include Firestone Vineyard, Zaca Mesa Winery, Barefoot Cellars, Buttonwood Winery, Brander Vineyard, Old Creek Ranch Winery, Geissinger Winery, Santa Barbara Winery and the Australian trio of Lindemans, Seaview and Penfolds.

Like the wine itself, the festival has aged gracefully. As the festival has gotten older, the list of participating wineries has gotten longer.

"We've built to the point where we have a pretty good winery hit list," said Larry Deutsch, chairman of the event, sponsored by the Ojai Rotary West group. "We send out [invitations] to most of the big wineries and most of them respond."

The festival will run from noon to 5 p.m. General admission is $17 advance, $20 at the gate; tickets for guests ages 13-20 and those who won't be drinking wine are $10; free for children 12 and younger with an adult. Information: (800) 648-4881.

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