New owner of former Papoo's site will open Italian kitchen

Goodbye, hot dogs. Hello, cheese plates and vino.

Big changes are ahead on the site where Papoo’s Hot Dog Show has operated in Burbank for 62 years.

Sal Calderone, a long-time chef who most recently worked for Urth Caffé, recently bought the property and plans to open a restaurant that will be much different from Papoo’s, which closed last Sunday because its owner, Leona Gardner, couldn’t afford to make extensive renovations required by the city.

Calderone plans to open an Italian-style restaurant named Rustica Café and Bakery that will feature a stone-hearth oven, espresso bar and outdoor fireplace on the back patio, he said.

When patrons enter the restaurant’s front entrance, they will see the large oven and kitchen staff at work through a glass wall, Calderone said.

There will also be outdoor seating for about 45 people on patios in front of and behind the restaurant, he said. Seating for another 40 will be available inside.

The menu will feature a wide variety of items ranging from New York-style cheesecake to roasted salmon.

Calderone is the former executive chef at Urth Caffé, where he worked for 14 years and saw the company grow from one location to five.

He has a long history in the restaurant business, starting as a child when his parents owned restaurants and catering halls in New Jersey. He said his parents’ employees never used cooking equipment, making everything by hand. That’s the philosophy Calderone plans for his restaurant, in addition to using fresh, locally grown ingredients.

Pastries, frittatas and granola will be among the breakfast items, and lunch will feature several salads and sandwiches, such as a grilled citrus chicken sandwich with butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes.

The dinner menu will include small-plate offerings such as shrimp or roasted chicken thighs, along with sides that include roasted vegetables or gourmet mac-n-cheese.

Calderone acknowledges that his restaurant will be a dramatic change from Papoo’s and many of the regular customers may not embrace the new venture.

“I hope they will be willing to try new things,” he said.

For the next three to four months, Calderone will be making extensive renovations to the restaurant, updating its electrical system, fixing the roof and installing a new kitchen that will include grilling and sauté stations.

While his offerings will be much different from Papoo’s, Calderone said he might acquiesce to the former eatery’s loyal customers.

“I might put a good hot dog or hamburger on the menu,” he said.

Calderone said his most popular items at other restaurants have been tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake — both of which will be on Rustica’s menu. He also plans to offer pumpkin pie, using his family’s recipe that was hugely popular at Urth Caffé.

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