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Splichal’s Big Move Stirs Up Local Scene

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Mind Meld: We asked a few chefs around town what they thought of Joachim Splichal’s recent decision to sell his Patina Group to the Restaurant Associates, the huge New York-based restaurant and food service company that runs some 130 restaurants, mostly on the East Coast. (Splichal got a huge sum--think double-digit millions--to take over the West Coast operations of Restaurant Associates. He and his senior management team will retain creative control of the Patina Group, which includes all seven of his restaurants, the five museum cafes and the catering contracts.)

“It’s huge news in the restaurant business,” said Hans Rockenwagner, owner-chef of Rockenwagner in Santa Monica and its more casual Marina del Rey cousin, Rock. “On one hand I’m saddened because we’re losing individuality [in the restaurant world] . . . but more power to Joachim.” He added, “It’s extremely smart of Restaurant Associates to [merge with Splichal]. If they want to establish themselves on the West Coast, it’s a brilliant move.”

Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, owners of Campanile in Hollywood, see the merger as the natural progression of Splichal’s incredible expansion. They figure Splichal was hoping for a deal like this all along. Says Silverton, “I don’t think anyone builds up their business the way he does without having that hope. . . . He’s made it--and of course we’re jealous.”

As for future expansion for Joaquim and Christine Splichal, Restaurant Associates is planning to open an Italian restaurant concept called Naples in Disneyland around 2001. The Splichals will head up that operation. In the meantime, Joachim Splichal will work on remodeling Patina.

New Old Bakery (and Restaurant): The Old Town Bakery in Pasadena has just been bought by chef Lance Corralez, who used to be the chef at Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park, Morton’s in West Hollywood and Engine Co. No. 28 downtown. As close as those restaurants are to his heart, Corralez tells us, “Now this is my baby.” The pastry chef will be Jane Thoma, recently of the Sofitel Hotel on Beverly Boulevard. Old Town Restaurant & Bakery opened a week ago for breakfast and lunch, and will start serving dinner Friday.

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* Old Town Restaurant & Bakery, 166 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 793-2993.

A French Guy Named Jose: A new breakfast and lunch spot has opened in Beverly Hills: the French Country Cafe. Its owners are Jose and Sherri Noel. (Don’t let Jose Noel’s first name throw you--he’s French all right, from Normandy.) The new restaurant has murals on the walls, Pierre-Deux fabrics on the furniture and warm-colored tile on the floors. “Nothing is terribly pretentious,” Sherri Noel told us. The Noels have owned the French Chef’s Pantry catering company for four years, so they’re not new to food service. Jose Noel does all the cooking. He offers a Provencal frittata, a grilled vegetable and goat cheese terrine, croque-monsieur (the French grilled ham and cheese sandwich), rosemary potatoes and a tart of the day. The couple run the place themselves, so they’ll be closed from Christmas Day until Jan. 2. About the second week in January, they’ll begin serving dinner Tuesday through Saturday nights. Currently they’re open for breakfast and lunch every day except Sunday.

* French Country Cafe, 231 Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 273-4332.

Tid-Bits: Owner Steven Arroyo of Boxer, the little box-shaped (and -sized) restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, has hired as his new chef Brooke Williamson, 21, formerly the sous chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica. Mona Villarosa (from Vancouver, Canada, also 21) joins Williamson as pastry chef. Says Arroyo of hiring and promoting young talents, “It’s kind of a shot in the arm when it works, and a shot in the foot when it doesn’t.” Boxer is at 7615 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6178. . . . Nick’s, the outdoor dining venue in South Pasadena, has a new tent for the garden. Owner-chef Nick Coe doesn’t want his patrons scared away by the thought of dining outdoors in cold weather, so he had the tent custom-made in France. It’s designed to look like a greenhouse with French doors and windows built into the frame. The roof (OK, the top) is of white canvas. Coe even got new heaters that fill the tent with warm air so you can take your jacket off to eat. “It’s so warm, you could take everything off,” says Coe, but we don’t recommend it. Nick’s is at 1009 El Centro St., South Pasadena, (626) 441-7910. . . . One (the restaurant of that name) is no longer open for lunch. Instead, it’s doing dinner seven nights a week. One, 672 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 692-0540. . . . Connolly’s, the eclectic dining spot on Pico Boulevard in West L.A., is no longer open for public dining. Owner John Connolly tells us, “We got the reviews but not the business.” Connolly, who specialized in catering before opening his restaurant, is still busy in that arena. He’ll open his place only for special events now. To book him for catering, call (310) 479-2133.

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Angela Pettera can be reached by voicemail at (213) 237-3153 or by e-mail at pettera@prodigy.net.


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