Italy, by way of the back roads

Don Dickman, who was chef de cuisine under Michael Roberts in the mid-'80s at Trumps, is coming back to town with his own restaurant.

Rocca, which opens Friday in Santa Monica, will have an Italian menu, but not one filled with all the usual dishes. Instead, Dickman -- who has more recently been executive chef at Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes -- will be doing “rustic country-style” cooking, with dishes such as potato ravioli with duck ragu, grilled wild boar sausages and tripe stewed in white wine. And definitely none of the Caesar salads and crab cakes cluttering Italian menus around town.

“I call it a pan-Italian restaurant,” he says.

Rocca, 1432A 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 395-6765.


The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant, will close for several months beginning Jan. 1.

A three- or four-month remodeling project will reorganize the kitchen and increase storage areas for food and wine, said spokeswoman Kristine Keefer. The 62-seat dining room will remain the same. This is the first long closing since the kitchen was moved in 1995.

Keller will use those months to export the essence and some of the staff of the Yountville restaurant to his restaurant in New York, set to open in January or February. The new restaurant, as yet unnamed, is on Columbus Circle with a 68-seat dining room and two private dining rooms.

The French Laundry, 6640 Washington St., Yountville, (707) 944-2380.


Santo Coyote, the Mexican restaurant that opened late last year in the space long occupied by Cafe Figaro, has a new chef. Salvador Morales, formerly of El Dorado in Brentwood, plans to offer lighter Mexican fare, such as shrimp ceviche and tamales made without lard.

Santo Coyote, 9010 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 860-9333.

Don’t expect the usual cheddar and pickle. At the Union Restaurant, Shawn Davis’ new Burgers and Burgundy menu on Sunday nights includes a $16 ahi tuna burger with oven-dried tomatoes and sage and a $14 Angus sirloin burger with figs and smoked gouda. Too conventional? How about an $18 veal and apricot burger with green peppercorns and Swiss cheese?

Union Restaurant, 1413 Fifth St., Santa Monica; (310) 656-9688.

Although a recent answering machine message at the house restaurant on Melrose suggested the staff had “gone fishing” until September, the cozy eatery has in fact closed for good. Chef-owner Scooter Kanfer says she is moving on to the “next chapter.”